Mains Marks Booster     5th August 2023        
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Millets, popularly called “mota anaj” in Hindi, are a collective group of small seeded annual grasses that are grown as grain crops, primarily on marginal land in dry areas of temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions.

India has a rich tradition of consumption of millets. 

Year 2023 marks the celebration of the Iinternational Year of Millets 2023. Recognizing the enormous potential millets, which also aligns with several UN Sustainable Development Goals in terms of being climate resilient, nutritious, and water efficient crops, the government of India has been prioritizing millets.

Types of millets

  • Major Millets- sorghum(jowar), pearl millet (bajra), finger millet (ragi/mandua)
  • Minor Millet- foxtail millet (kangani/kakun), proso millet (cheena), kodo millet,barnyard 
  • Pseudo millet –Buckwheat (kuttu)and amaranth (chaulai)

Production of millets: Data

  • India is the largest producer of millets as of 2021, with total share of 41% followed by Niger (12%) and China (8%).
    • India is poised to become the global hub for millets with a production of more than 170 lakh tn which makes for more than 80% of the millets produced in India.
Per capita availability of millets in 2021 was appx 12.3 kg of millets.India’s average yield of millets (1239 kg/ha) is also higher than global average yield of 1229 kg/ha.
  • Rajasthan contributed to 36% of the total area for millet cultivation in India and production with 26%.


Importance of millets 

  • Nutritional benefitsStorehouse of nutrition as they are good sources of calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, vitamins. They are gluten free and also considered good for celiac patients.
  • Climate friendly crop- Millets are resilient to climate change as they are pest free, adapted to a wide range of temperatures and moisture regimes.
  • Low water footprints. Requiring minimum rainfall for even sustain in drought prone areas.
  • Viable options for small farmers: Low investment needed for production of millets.
  • Multiple uses - as Food, fodder and feed, biofuels etc. For eg. Jowar & Bajra based biofuel can help in achieving target of 20% ethanol blending with petrol by 2025.
  • Aligned with International commitment
  • Focus on Millet production is in line with India’s commitment to SDG goals of eradication of hunger & UN Decade of Action on Nutrition from 2016 to 2025.

Case study-

Popularising millets in Telangana

Komaram Bheem Asifabad is a tribal district under the project SAMPOORNA focused on ensuring the availability of traditional and local food like millets. Under decentralized Millet Village Circular Economic Model, millets are grown ,procured , processed, packaged and sold locally to villagers at cheaper price. 

 International year of millets

  • The United Nations General Assembly has declared the year 2023 as a “International Year of  Millets”.It will help in creating awareness throughout the world about the significant role of millets in sustainable agriculture and its benefit as smart food and superfood.
  • IYM aims to contribute to the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable Development ,particularly SDG 2 (zero hunger)SDG 3(good health and wellbeing), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) SDG 2 (responsible consumption), SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 15 (life on land).

Challenges to the Millet economy

  • Reduced area under millet cultivation: Millet's area under cultivation decreased from 35 bn ha to 15 bn ha.
  • Unavailability of the market and very little share in the processing sector.
  • Lower shelf life - Processed Millets (like millet flour) have poor shelf life due to its intrinsic enzyme activity that causes rapid development of rancidity and bitterness. 
  • Consumer perception: Millets are increasingly seen as “poor person’s food”, thus, lower demand with rise in incomes and urbanization (rice and wheat seen as ‘aspirational foods’).
  • According to NSSO household consumption expenditure survey, less than 10% of rural and urban households reported consumption of millets.
  • Other Challenges - low remunerative prices, lack of input subsidies and MSP, yield variability, weak supply chain linkages & marketing, subsidised supply of fine cereals PDS system etc.

Maharshi initiative (Millets and Other Ancient Grains Initiative)

In news- Recently G20 MACs meeting (meetings of agriculture chief scientists) 2023 in varanasi under India’s presidency launch the MAHARSHI (Millets and Other Ancient Grains Initiative)

Objective-To promote research and awareness about agro-biodiversity, food security and nutrition in line with the international year of millets 2023.

  • MAHARSHI secretariats shall be housed at Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Hyderabad with technical support from ICRISAT.

Conclusion: Millet farming still needs ecosystem-level interventions. Millets promote women farmers and their farming knowledge. Millets can be revived in India by educating farmers and the public about their many benefits.

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