With millets set to play a crucial role in the country’s nutritional and food security, stakeholders in the nutri-cereals, including financing agencies, are looking at sustaining current efforts to promote the cereal in a big way.

Bharat Biotech Chairman Krisha Ella raised the issue of exempting millet products from GST, an issue that found backing from the delegates.

This was the general theme that ran through NABARD-businessline Millet Conclave 2023 held in Hyderabad on Friday. Any move to waive the GST could boost consumption.

The conclave also saw experts calling for measures to incentivise farmers to grow millets. Other highlights were making consumers aware on the affordability factor of millets and leverage social media to promote their exports.

Inaugurating the conclave, NABARD chairman Shaji K V said the country’s target is to produce 45 million tonnes of millets by 2030 from the current level of 17 million tonnes. “We are trying to bring back the area under millets which have dwindled,”Shaji said.

India accounts for 41 per cent of the global millets production. “Millets have a crucial role to play in the nutritional security of the country. With food security not a major concern now, we are looking at sustainability,” Shaji said at the event in which APEDA and Troo Good were associate partners.

In a virtual address, Himanshu Pathak, Director-General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, said Millet has lost its sheen with the production of more rice and wheat after the green revolution. Global production of millet is about 100 million tonnes from about 80 million hectares of land.

In his virtual address, APEDA chairman, Abhishek Dev said India was targeting to export $100 million worth of millets by 2025. In fiscal 2022-23, millet exports stood at $75.43 million.

Experts felt that incentivisation of millet farmers, innovation in agronomics and focus on marketing were key drivers to boost production as well as consumption. Also, the stakeholders felt that branding of millets will give a push to exports.

“We need to brand our millets to tap the export opportunity better,” said Vishala Reddy, Director of Millets Bank. Key approaches to tap export markets are capacity building tap new markets, promoting higher value, brand Indian millets, traceability, and R&D seeding among others, Reddy said.

Director of Indian Institute of Millets Research Tara Satyavati, while many millet-based products such as cookies among others have hit the market, there was a need to include millets in the staple diet. She called upon the industry to invest in R&D in innovating products based on jowar and bajra for which there was big scope in the market.

In his presentation, Dr Devraj JP, Scientist – Division of Clinical Epidemiology, said the Government has begun to provide millets to sportspersons and it was showing positive results. He said millet-based foods have been introduced in hostels and sports institutes.