Unfolding a three-point agenda before the government when the country is observing the International Year of Millets this year, industry body CII has suggested that innovation and extension should be the focus while the private sector can help increase demand by including more millet-based products in its portfolio.

Addressing a conference on millets, ITC Chairman Sanjiv Puri said the benefits of modern technology in processing should benefit all stakeholders of millets. The research from ICAR and other institutes must move hand-in-hand with start-ups so that innovation and incubation in millets are taken forward, he said.

Puri also said there should be a cluster-based approach so that extension services are target-oriented and productivity is increased, which will take care of the supply-side issues. Third, the food companies should include more millet-based products in their portfolio so that consumer demand is also raised, he added.

“We have to work on both consumer demand and supply side issues simultaneously,” said Puri, also vice-president, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Buoyant growth

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said agriculture and allied sector is undoubtedly the largest livelihood provider in India. The sector experienced buoyant growth – 3.6 per cent in 2020-21 and 3.9 per cent in 2021-22. It had a sizeable 18.8 per cent share in Gross Value Added (GVA) of the country in 2021-22.

Identifying the opportunity in the millet crops, the government has given priority to the promotion of millets under the “Sub Mission on Millets” under the National Food Security Mission since 2018. Several States have also launched the mission on Millets, Tomar said. With the focus on increasing millet production, 154 high-yielding varieties including 9 bio-fortified varieties of millets were introduced, the minister said.

Tomar also said the Agriculture Ministry has been working on strengthening the quality seed chain, promoting smart technology, millet-based cropping systems towards crop diversification, creating the right ecosystem for millet-based farmer producer organisations (FPOs), start-ups, and entrepreneurs to flourish, creating awareness around health benefits, and procurement under government procurement.

Amitabh Kant, G20 Sherpa, in his address, said India’s G20 presidency has the potential to be a watershed moment in the country’s rise as an international leader and voice of the Global South in the face of critical challenges in the food economy caused by geopolitical issues. Millet mission has already been operational in Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and some other States.

He said G20 has adopted a three-pronged strategy in which millets will be included in all meals at over 200 extensive meetings with various ministries and secretariats, millet cuisine stalls will be set up at each meeting, and millets will be included in gift hampers for international delegates. Post-pandemic, millets fit well into the Indian health scenario, encouraging healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle while addressing malnutrition and obesity.