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Millets: The Forgotten Supergrain Makes a Comeback

Closeup of a Pearl millet farm - this image is to explains India's "International Year of Millets" (IYM) in 2023

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Embark on a journey through India's "International Year of Millets" (IYM) in 2023. Discover the coordinated efforts at both center and state levels to promote millet cultivation. Uncover the initiatives that shaped this agricultural celebration. Read more!

Millets: The Forgotten Supergrain Makes a Comeback.

The year 2023 marked a turning point for millets, a group of small-grained cereals that have been cultivated for centuries but often overlooked in favor of rice and wheat. Recognizing their immense potential to address global food security and nutrition challenges, the United Nations General Assembly designated 2023 as the "International Year of Millets" (IYM). This global initiative resonated strongly in India, the world's largest producer and consumer of millets, where the year witnessed a concerted effort to promote these grains as a sustainable, nutritious, and profitable alternative to traditional staples.

Millets: A Sustainable and Nutritious Choice

Unlike rice and wheat, millets are remarkably resilient crops, thriving in harsh environments with limited water and inputs. They are a great supplement to any diet because they are also a great source of several different nutrients, such as protein, fibre, iron, calcium, and antioxidants.

Nutritional Powerhouse:

Protein: Millets are particularly rich in protein, containing up to 20% compared to rice's 7%.
Essential Amino Acids: Millets are a good source of essential amino acids, the building blocks of proteins needed for growth and repair.
Fiber: Millets are high in fiber, promoting digestive health and satiety.
Minerals: Millets' rich mineral content contributes to bone health, blood sugar control, and overall well-being.

India's Millet Mission:

India, recognizing the immense potential of millets, embarked on a mission to promote their production, consumption, and trade. In 2018, the government launched the National Mission on Millets (NMM), a comprehensive initiative aimed at mainstreaming millets into the Indian food system.

“Millets can definitely be termed as Miracle Grains” 
- Kitchen Kathukutty,
Food Blogger

Key Areas of Focus:

Increasing Millet Acreage: The NMM implemented strategies to expand millet cultivation, including developing high-yielding varieties, improving cultivation practices, and enhancing seed access.
Strengthening Research and Development: Government investments fueled research and development to enhance millet productivity, develop new varieties, and explore innovative processing and utilization techniques.
Promoting Millet Consumption: Awareness campaigns educated the public about the nutritional benefits of millets and encouraged consumption. Market linkages were established to connect millet producers with consumers.
Supporting Millet Processing and Value Addition: Government support for millet processing units encouraged the development of value-added millet products, such as flour, snacks, and beverages.

In India, the IYM spurred a surge of initiatives at both the national and state levels, aimed at promoting millets as a sustainable, nutritious, and profitable alternative to traditional staples.

"The International Year of Millets has been a game-changer in raising awareness about these superfoods. We need to continue the momentum to make millets a staple in our diets."
- Ms. Shobana Kamineni, 
Chairperson, Millet Advisory Committee

National Initiatives:

The Indian government played a pivotal role in promoting millets through various national-level initiatives:

National Mission on Millets (NMM): The NMM, served as the cornerstone of India's millet promotion strategy. It focused on increasing millet acreage, enhancing productivity, strengthening research and development, promoting consumption, and supporting processing and value addition.
Awareness Campaigns: The government launched extensive awareness campaigns to educate the public about the nutritional benefits of millets, dispelling myths and misconceptions. These campaigns utilized various media channels, including TV, radio, and social media, to reach a wide audience.
Market Linkages: The government facilitated market linkages between millet producers and consumers, addressing the long-standing issue of inadequate market access for millet farmers. This included establishing online marketplaces, organizing fairs and exhibitions, and connecting farmers with potential buyers.

State-Level Initiatives:

Several Indian states also took proactive steps to promote millets, tailoring their initiatives to specific regional contexts and needs:

Karnataka: Karnataka launched a millet-based nutrition program for pregnant women and children, recognizing the importance of millets in maternal and child health. The program provided millet-based meals and nutrition counseling to ensure adequate intake of essential nutrients.
Andhra Pradesh: Andhra Pradesh established a dedicated millet mission, bringing together various departments and stakeholders to coordinate millet promotion efforts. The mission focused on increasing millet production, improving post-harvest handling, and developing value-added millet products.
Odisha: Odisha implemented a millet-based livelihood program, providing farmers with training, inputs, and market linkages to enhance their millet cultivation practices and income generation opportunities.

Impact of Initiatives:

The combined efforts at the national and state levels led to significant progress in promoting millets in India:

Increased Millet Acreage: Millet acreage in India increased by an impressive 15% in 2023 compared to 2022, reaching an estimated 7.7 million hectares.
Improved Farmer Benefits: Millet farmers experienced higher incomes due to increased prices, lower production costs, and better market access.
Enhanced Profitability: A study by the Indian Institute of Millet Research (IIMR) revealed that millet farmers can earn up to 40% more profit compared to rice farmers.
Diversified Income Sources: Millets offer farmers an additional income stream, reducing their reliance on traditional staples and buffering them against market fluctuations.
Enhanced Consumer Awareness: Consumer awareness of millets and their nutritional benefits grew substantially, leading to increased demand.

A Win-Win for Farmers:

Millets have emerged as a game-changer for Indian farmers, bringing about a wave of benefits:

Reduced Costs: Millets demand less water and inputs compared to rice and wheat, lowering production costs for farmers. This translates into more savings and better profit margins.
Higher Yields: Despite their smaller size, millets can match or even exceed the yields of rice and wheat. This means more grains to sell and more income for farmers.
Price Stability: Unlike rice and wheat, which often experience price fluctuations, millets have maintained relatively stable prices. This stability provides farmers with a predictable income stream, reducing uncertainty and risk.
Drought Tolerance: Millets are remarkably resilient crops, thriving in harsh environments with limited water. This ability to withstand droughts is crucial for farmers in arid regions, ensuring a more stable livelihood.

A Sustainable Future for Indian Agriculture:

Millets are not just beneficial for farmers; they also hold immense potential for India's agricultural future:

Climate-Resilient Crops: Millets' ability to withstand droughts makes them a crucial choice for adapting to climate change and ensuring sustainable agricultural practices.
Nutritional Powerhouses: Millets are packed with essential nutrients, including protein, fiber, iron, calcium, and antioxidants, making them a valuable addition to the Indian diet.
Environmental Benefits: Millets require less water and fewer chemical inputs, reducing their environmental footprint and promoting sustainable agriculture.
“Millets are the future of sustainable food security. They are not only nutritious but also climate-resilient and can provide a better livelihood for farmers." 
- Dr. Swapan Datta, 
Director, Indian Institute of Millet Research

Indian Brands Championing a Nutritious Staple:

Famous Indian brands are promoting millets through a variety of innovative and engaging strategies, aiming to increase awareness about these nutritious grains and encourage their consumption. Here are some notable examples:

1. ITC's Millet Mania: ITC, a leading Indian conglomerate, launched the "Millet Mania" campaign to promote millets as a healthier and more sustainable alternative to traditional grains like rice and wheat. The campaign included a series of advertisements, cooking demonstrations, and partnerships with chefs and food bloggers to showcase the versatility and deliciousness of millets.
2. Daawat Millets Range: Daawat, a renowned basmati rice brand, introduced a range of millet products, including millet flour, khichdi mixes, and ready-to-eat snacks. This move aimed to make millets more accessible and convenient for consumers, catering to their busy lifestyles.
3. Godrej Agrovet's Millets Processing Facilities: Godrej Agrovet, an agriculture and food company, established millet processing facilities to enhance the quality and availability of millets in the market. This investment aimed to address the supply chain challenges faced by millet farmers and processors.
4. Satyam Foods' Millet-Based Products: Satyam Foods, a leading organic food company, offers a wide range of millet-based products, including millet cookies, breakfast cereals, and millet puffs. This initiative aims to popularize millets among health-conscious consumers and children.
5. Millet-Based Restaurants and Cafes: Several restaurants and cafes across India are incorporating millets into their menus, creating innovative dishes and promoting millet-based cuisine. This trend is helping to expand the culinary appeal of millets and attract new consumers.
6. Millet-Focused Festivals and Events: Various millet-focused festivals and events are being organized across India to raise awareness about millets, promote their consumption, and connect millet producers with consumers. These events provide a platform for education, networking, and market expansion.
7. Social Media Campaigns and Influencer Marketing: Influencers and social media platforms are playing a significant role in promoting millets, sharing recipes, highlighting the nutritional benefits, and encouraging consumers to try millet-based products.
8. Partnerships with Agricultural Universities and Research Institutions: Brands are collaborating with agricultural universities and research institutions to develop new millet varieties, improve cultivation practices, and enhance the nutritional content of millets.
9. Promoting Millets as a Sustainable Food Choice: Brands are emphasizing the sustainability aspects of millets, highlighting their drought tolerance, low water requirements, and ability to thrive in marginal lands, making them a more environmentally friendly food choice.
10. Supporting Millet Farmers and Communities: Brands are supporting millet farmers through initiatives like fair trade practices, training programs, and market linkages, ensuring that they benefit from the growing demand for millets.


The IYM 2023 proved to be a catalyst for mainstreaming millets in India. The concerted efforts at both the national and state levels laid a solid foundation for further promoting millets, paving the way for a more sustainable and nutritious food system in India. With continued support and innovation, millets have the potential to become a staple food choice, contributing to food security, farmer prosperity, and public health.