The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) and the Karnataka Government will form a consortium along with other stakeholders to promote millets.

The consortium will work on product development and build a brand for Karnataka ragi (finger millet).

“There is a need to change the image of millets. Make them more modern and create a buzz around them. Developing appropriate consumer products is a key component to achieve this. They are highly nutritious and have health benefits, use less water and have high drought tolerance and increasing their market value benefits farmers,” David Bergvinson, Director-General of ICRISAT, has said.

At a workshop held here on Friday, representatives from these entities discussed the challenges that hindered the consumption of millets in the country. They felt that consumers did not view millets as a modern product.

“Awareness of health benefits is limited to niche markets. Lack of grading and standards of millets too is a challenge,” the stakeholders felt.

Millets suit well for the rain-fed areas and can withstand temperatures as high as 64 °C. The short-duration crop (60 days) consumes much less water than long duration crop such as wheat. For one, finger millet and pearl millet would require just 350 mm of water, sugarcane requires 2,100 mm and rice 1,250 mm.

The stakeholders agreed to work on an action plan that would include forming a public private consortium of partners. A more detailed road map will be planned over the next few months.

“Millets are good from multiple points of view. So far, our efforts have focused on the supply side and there has been considerable success in increasing yields and more resilient varieties. But I feel the demand side has hardly been touched at all,’’ Krishna Byre Gowda, Karnataka Minister for Agriculture, told reporters after the meeting.

“There are many reasons why millets are not a regular product in the consumer basket. One of the reasons is the fact that not many processing technologies have been developed yet,” B Dayakar Rao, Principal Scientist at IIMR, said.