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Indian Millets to make World a Healthier Place

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By Dr M Angamuthu, Chairman, APEDA

Keeping in sync with the G-20 theme of ‘Recover Together, Recover Stronger’ in the International Year of Millets (IYoM) 2023, India is set to make the world a healthier place with an increased emphasis on its export of nutritional millets. Traditionally grown healthy nutraceutical cereal is fast becoming the new identity of India as it is a sustainable commodity. Bajra, Ragi, Canary, Jawar and Buckwheat are going to be now globally enjoyed cereals.

The Covid-19, climate change, awareness of calorie intakes are the catastrophic changes that drifted the globe towards this smart food and its nutritional benefits. India, the largest producer of millets with 19 per cent of share, has taken up the sole responsibility of shouldering the millet revolution and bringing about a revolutionary change in India’s exports targeting global millet imports with APEDA’s marketing strategy.

As a part of its Millets Export Promotion Strategy,  a Millet Conclave was organised to take India ahead and create awareness amongst the top trading 100 nations displaying a wide range of value-added innovative products of millets with different nutritional values, inviting buyers to show them the unique products that India has to offer and to ultimately secure a space for Indian millets in every diet and every meal across the globe. The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), which works under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, has plans to achieve the USD 100 million target by 2025. A comprehensive global marketing campaign is being prepared assessing India’s potential. Accordingly an e-catalogue of 30 importing countries and 21 millet producing states has been prepared and a virtual trade fair platform was launched to give impetus for the export of millets as well as its value-added products.

As the world is moving towards nutritional security, there is a decadal rise in international imports of millets, 5.4 per cent in terms of value and 14 per cent in terms of quantity. Millets have grabbed global attention due to its extreme exceptional and excellent quality attributes as they are gluten-free, high protein and high fibre. Being a substitute for rice and wheat, millets are potentially beneficial in diabetes management, low GI aid in weight management, help in anemia, blood pressure and cardiovascular disorders.

In all aspects, millets are considered superior than wheat, rice and maize and if India moves ahead with the agenda of disease eradication with nutritional millets, these can replace one-third of recommended cereal diet of diabetic patients and anaemic women, yielding an opportunity for 100 grams of millet intake per capita per day making India achieve the target of “Millets, a staple food in every diet” in The Year of Millets (IYoM).

In the export promotion of Indian millets, the Centre is in the process of facilitating participation of exporters, FPOs/FPCs, traders in various international events by organising Buyer-Seller Meets in more than 16 International Trade Fairs. India has already promoted millet and its value-added products at an event to celebrate IYoM, 2023 was organised by FAO at its HQ in Rome, Italy. Buyer Seller Meets were held in Jakarta and Medan, Indonesia, in association with Indian Embassies. Plans are in place to facilitate participation in the International Trade Fairs such as Gulfood 2023, Dubai, UAE, Foodex, Japan, Fine Food, Australia, Anuga Food Fair, Germany, etc., and promoting the theme “Millets”.

Leading importers/departmental stores/Super markets/hyper market chains would be roped in through the Embassy of India to promote millets, and food sampling and tasting campaigns will be organised. There would be branding/publicity of Indian Millets in the targeted countries and markets in association with IBEF, as well as promotion campaigns through social media.

India’s top five millet producing states are Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. There are 16 major varieties of millet, which are produced and exported, including Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi), Minor Millets (Kangani), Proso Millet (Cheena), Kodo Millet (Kodo), Barnyard Millet (Sawa/Sanwa/Jhangora), Little Millet (Kutki), Two Pseudo Millets (BuckWheat/Kuttu), Ameranthus (Chaulai) and Brown Top Millet.

Exports of millets from India include mainly whole grain and the export of value-added products of millets from India is negligible. The Government is also mobilising start-ups for export promotion of value-added products in the Ready-to-Eat (RTE) and Ready-to-Serve (RTS) category such as noodles, pasta, breakfast cereals mix, biscuits, cookies, snacks, sweets, etc.

India’s major millet exporting countries are UAE, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Oman, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, UK and USA. The varieties of millets exported by India include Bajra, Ragi, Canary, Jawar, and Buckwheat. The USA stands at the top among the price realisation for unit export in sorghum, canary, bajra and ragi whereas Saudi Arabia gave better returns on buckwheat and other millet exports. In general, buckwheat fetched far higher prices compared to sorghum and other millets. The major millet importing countries in the world are Indonesia, Belgium, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Italy, the USA, United Kingdom, Brazil and Netherlands.

India is moving ahead in promoting millets across the world with the objective of reforming millet as part of staple food in every diet.