India is the largest producer of millets in the world producing 15.53 million tonnes in an area of 12.45 million hectares across 21 states of the country.
However, Millet sector has been facing a host of challenges relating to production, processing, value addition, marketing and consumption which have hindered the process of advocating millets as the staple foods through the world:
- Compared to wheat, rice and maize, millets have lower productivity due to their cultivation in marginal lands in rainfed farming and non-adoption of improved cultivars. Bringing the additional lands under millets cultivation is an important factor in increasing the production, especially the fallow and wastelands and the non-traditional areas are more sustainable without competing with the high remunerative crop.
- There is a huge need for identifying various product-specific cultivars and establishing the seed hubs for breeding and producing such seeds so as to establish demand-driven production. The development of seed hubs that can deliver quality seed at high production levels is an important intervention.
- Unlike millets, fine cereals such as Rice and Wheat have been made available at incentivized prices through Public Distribution System, Midday Meal Scheme and other public funded feeding/ nutritional programs.
- While aligning more resources for the improvement of fine cereals, millets were not given adequate importance in research and development on improved varieties, productivity, diversification of processing technologies and marketing.
- Lower profitability and lack of commercialization leading to millets being less remunerative crops due to lower yields coupled with declining prices due to vulnerable quality to environmental factors.
- Lack of processing machinery and diversification of processing technologies dedicated to millets (especially given the complexity of processing of small millets)
- No MSP for Small Millets has slowed expansion of the area under their cultivation hampering their production and supply.
- Slow pace of outreach to promote millets through various institutions and governments have led to lack of awareness about the importance of millets.
- Millet based products are not covered under standard foods and thus it has to go through an approval process. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) should, thus, consider these innovative products and come out with standard.
- Quality standards and their certification is still a major drawback for export of Millet based products.
- Lack of knowledge about export policies and understanding about the markets in different countries. Massive awareness campaigns are
Concerted efforts are required to overcome these challenges and mainstreaming millets by diversifying production technologies, building forward and backward linkages, nurturing the start-up eco-system and bringing millets to the food plates of all.
- Knowledge Paper on Millets: The Future Super Food for India, ASSOCHAM, June 2022