Centre looks to brand ‘India-grown’ millets for global market
The Union government will launch a programme to ramp up farm-to-fork value chains for millets or coarse cereals, following up on proposals in the Union Budget 2022-23 and in view of the UN’s declaration of 2023 as the International Year of Millets, an official familiar aware of the development said.
India, a major producer of millets, had formally requested the UN in 2018 to declare 2023 as the global year of millets, which was approved at the UN General Assembly this year. The country is now looking to raise output and branding of “India-grown” millets to drive exports and tap into a growing global market.
Small-seeded whole-grain nutritious crops, millets are associated with health and wellness and lower risks of lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular ailments.
In the Union Budget 2022-23, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed a policy push for branding of Indian millets, which are key ingredients in the breakfast cereals, biscuits and healthy snack segments. Millets are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibres.
The agriculture and food processing ministries will coordinate to mobilise farmer producer unions, which are collectives of cultivators, to expand millets farming in key growing states, such as Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, among others.
“The programme to promote millets being worked on will focus on post-harvest value addition, raising productivity and also strengthening supply chains,” the official cited above said, requesting anonymity.
A major thrust of the programme will be to brand the homegrown produce with its own logo, which will be carried on food packaging to uniquely identify Indian millets.
India grows a wide variety of millets in states such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra and Karnataka. They include major crops such as sorghum (jowar), pearl and finger (ragi) millets, besides five minor ones, namely foxtail, barnyard, proso, brown top and kodo.
India is currently showcasing investment potential of millets and associated food processing opportunities at the ongoing Dubai Expo 2020.
“Indian farmers produce food that not only sustains India, but also provides food security to the world. Millets are an important area for us, and we would like to utilise this global platform to learn about the health and nutritional aspects of millets and bring back the glory of millets,” an official statement had quoted joint secretary Shubha Thakur as saying last week.
Domestically, the Narendra Modi government has decided to include millets in the public distribution system for which it is procuring these cereals at federally fixed minimum support prices. This is set to be expanded, the official said.
Supply of cheap millets to the public, especially through school mid-day meals, will improve nutrition outcomes among the poor and also boost incomes for small farmers.
Millets are mostly cultivated in low-fertility lands, mountainous terrain, tribal and rain-fed areas in states such as Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
According to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, millets are drought-tolerant and resistant to climate change. Cultivation of millets requires less water than rice and wheat, which makes them suitable for small growers.