Miracle Millets to Strengthen the Global Fight against Food Insecurity & Climate Change

  • Published | 20 March 2023

Millets, rich in nutrients and require much less water than rice and wheat, can be wonder grains to the world’s, particularly developing and underdeveloped countries’, intensifying search for a feasible solution addressing resource scarcity & widespread malnutrition and ensuring food security.

Millets Market DemandMillets, also known as dryland cereals, are small-seeded grasses that are typically grown in arid and semi-arid regions. Throughout Asia and Africa, millets were the first crops that humans ever farmed. Millets, once a crucial component of human civilization's diet, were supplanted in the post-green revolution era by other water-guzzling grains, such as wheat and rice. Today, farmers in marginal lands, who are resource-constrained and subsistence-oriented, are more likely to produce millets. Yet, in order to capitalize on millets' relevance for agroecology and nutrition, agricultural institutions, governments, and business around the world are redirecting their efforts toward them.

In many regions of India, particularly in the countryside, millets play a significant role in the traditional diet. They are recognized for their high quantities of protein, dietary fiber, and several micronutrients, such as iron, calcium, and phosphorus. They are a crucial crop for farmers in regions with a scarcity of water and other resources, as they are drought-resistant and adaptable to a variety of soil types.

The nutrition-rich cereals are broadly classified into two key groups – major and minor:

  • Major Millets: Sorghum, Pearl Millet, and Finger Millet
  • Minor Millets: Little Millet, Proso, Kodo, Foxtail Millet, and Barnyard Millet

India is the largest producer of millets in the world, producing 17.60 million metric tons (MT) in 2022, contributing to 19% of the global production.

According to a report published by Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), in 2021, India ranked 7th in global millet exports in terms of value - worth USD 65.10 Mn (1.66% of global trade) - and 10th in terms of volume of 1.68 lakh MT (0.45% of global trade). India witnessed exports rising from USD 55.22 million in 2011 to USD 65.1 million in 2021, registering growth at a CAGR of 1.66%. In volume terms, exports declined at negative 0.52% from 1.76 lakh MT in 2011 to 1.68 lakh MT in 2021.

Global Millets Market

  • On March 18, 2023, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi opened the World Millets (Shree Anna) Conference at the NASC Complex, IARI Campus, PUSA, New Delhi. The two-day international conference consisted of sessions on all crucial issues relating to millets (Shree Anna), including the development of the millets value chain, the health and nutritional benefits of millets, market linkages, research and development, and promotion of millets among producers, consumers, and other stakeholders.

The symposium placed its emphasize on millets' potential to improve food security and sustainability as well as their nutritional advantages. Millets are a desirable option for small and marginal farmers in dryland areas, as they are drought-resistant and require fewer inputs than other crops. They are also rich in nutrients, such as protein, dietary fiber, and micronutrients including iron, calcium, and zinc.

The conference featured plenary sessions, technical sessions, and poster presentations covering various aspects of millets, including their agronomy, genetic diversity, processing and value addition, marketing, and policy support. There will also be discussions on the role of millets in addressing malnutrition, the potential for millets in the food and beverages industry, and the need for policy support to promote millets as a viable food crop.

Speaking to the group, the Prime Minister of India thanked everyone on organizing the Global Millets Conference and stated that such events are not only essential for the greater benefit of the world but also a reminder of India's obligations in that regard. He also emphasized that India's consistent efforts led to the United Nations designating 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYM), underscoring the significance of turning a resolution into a desired result. He expressed his happiness that, at a time when the world is commemorating the IYM, India's campaign represents a big stride in this direction. The prime minister stated that brainstorming sessions would be held on subjects including millets farming, millets' economy, benefits to health, and farmers’ income among others with the active participation of Gram Panchayat, Krishi Kendras, schools, colleges and agricultural universities along with the Indian embassies and several foreign countries. Additionally, he mentioned that the initiative currently has a virtual connection to more than 75 lakh farmers. Together with the publication of a book on millet standards and the designation of the Indian Institute of Millets Research of the ICAR as a Global Centre of Excellence, the Prime Minister also introduced a commemorative coin and postal stamp to celebrate the occasion.

The two-day conference witnessed participation from dignitaries, including Dr. Jaquelene Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT; Jong-Jin Kim, Assistant Director General & Regional Representative for Asia and Pacific, FAO; Kapil Dev, Cricketer; Geeta Phogat, Wrestler, Commonwealth Gold Medalist; Chef Thomas Gugler, President, World Association of Chefs, alongside an esteemed audience of Padma Awardee farmers.

A significant occasion that highlighted the growing interest in millets as a sustainable and nutrient-dense food crop is the global conference on millets in 2023. The conference had brought together experts and stakeholders from all around the world to talk about the advantages and difficulties of promoting millets and to create plans for doing so. It is a significant step toward accomplishing the goals of food security, sustainability, and encouraging healthy eating for everyone.

  • International Year of Millets (IYM)

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2023 to be the International Year of Millets (IYM). This choice was made in recognition of millets' significance for establishing sustainable agriculture, encouraging healthy diets, and maintaining global food security.

  • On March 05, 2021, the IYM-2023 was formally introduced through a virtual event that brought together decision-makers, professionals, and farmers from all around the world. The occasion brought attention to millets' economic, environmental, and nutritional advantages as well as the difficulties small-scale farmers confront in growing them.

To promote millets' production, consumption, and commerce and to increase public knowledge of their significance, a number of events and initiatives will be held throughout the year. They include national and international conferences, exhibitions, campaigns, and policy discussions. A number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pertaining to food security, health, and environmental sustainability are supported by the IYM.

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