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2024 MAY 25

Mains   > Agriculture   >   Crops   >   Miscellaneous


GS 3 >> Agriculture >> Millets


  • The Food and Agriculture Organization hosted the closing ceremony for the International Year of Millets in Rome on March 29 this year. The event concluded with a positive outlook on maintaining the momentum achieved through the successful International Year of Millets program.
  • In March 2021, during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, India proposed designating 2023 as the International Year of Millets, a motion that was supported by seventy countries.
  • Despite the Indian government's multiple initiatives to boost millet production, the ecosystem for the production and consumption of millets still faces several challenges that need to be addressed to enhance their adoption and consumption further.


  • Millets are a group of small-seeded grasses (Poaceae or grass family). These are widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains. They are used as both human food and animal fodder.Millets are not new to India. They are mentioned in prehistoric texts. However, due to the push to food security through the Green Revolution in the 1960s, millets were rendered “orphan crops”- as they were less consumed and were almost forgotten.
  • Types of millets- Millets include three major millets- Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl (Bajra), Finger (Ragi) and six minor millets- Barnyard (Sanwa), Proso (Chenna/Barri), Foxtail (Kakum), Kodo, Brown Top and Little (Kutki/Shavan).
  • Climatic Requirements- Millets require warm temperatures for germination and development, and are sensitive to frost. For these reasons, they are normally planted from mid-June to mid-July period. Optimum soil temperatures for seed germination are between 20°C and 30°C. Millet are efficient users of water and grow well in areas of low moisture. They can grow in areas with annual rainfall range of ~30-50 cm. Millets are often grown as catch crops– a crop grown in the space between two main crops or at a time when no main crops are being grown.
  • Soil Requirements- Millets are highly adaptable to a variety of soil conditions, from extremely poor to very fertile, and can handle a degree of alkalinity. Alluvial, loamy, and sandy soils with good drainage are the ideal soils for millet cultivation.


India's Millet Metrics | Outlook Business

  • India produces more than 17 million tonnes of millets a year. It is 80% of Asia’s and 20% of the global output.
  • Ten states, which are characterised by low to moderate annual precipitation (200–800 mm rainfall), produce almost all the millets grown in India. These are Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana.
  • Jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet), and Ragi (finger millet) together account for more than 70 per cent of the total millets produced in India.


Nutritional and Health

  • Relatively higher nutrition levels- According to ICAR-Indian Institute of Millets Research, Hyderabad, Millets contain 7-12% protein, 2-5% fat, 65-75% carbohydrates and 15-20% dietary fibre. They are more nutritious compared to fine cereals as they contain higher protein, fat and fibre content.

  • Lower risks of diseases- They are gluten-free and non-allergenic. They have low Glycaemic Index and pose lower risks of diabetes. Millets also help to combat cardiovascular diseases, anaemia, calcium deficiency etc.

  • Rich source of micronutrients- Millets are also rich in micronutrients like calcium, iron, zinc, iodine etc., and they are three to five times more nutritious than wheat and rice in terms of proteins, minerals and vitamins.

  • Nourishment of Children- According to a study conducted by ICRISAT, millets boost the physiological growth and development in children and adolescents, when rice is replaced by millets in standard meals.
Food Security

  • Combating Hunger- Millets are sustainable food source for combating hunger in a changing world climate. Millets secure sixth position in terms of world agricultural production of cereal grains and are still a staple food in many regions of the world.

  • Resistant to climate change- Millets are thermophilic and xerophilic that they have resistance to climatic stress, pest and diseases, and they can be stored for long distances with ease.
  • Millets are drought resistant and have lower water requirement. Millets can grow in regions with <50 cm annual rainfall.They have short growing season and require less water during growth. They can be grown in dry land areas using farmyard manures. This reduces their dependence on synthetic fertilisers.
  • Millets help in carbon sequestration as well.

  • Millets offer farmers a stable source of income as they are drought-resistant and less susceptible to failure due to weather-related events.
  • Millet production requires a low initial capital investment.

  • Fulfilment of SDGs- Millets have the potential to help achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs), mainly SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production), and SDG 13 (Climate Action).
  • Millets can help reduce gender nutrition gaps and inequalities.
  • Millets can also help in doubling of farmers’ income and an increase in human capital as a result of an increase in the availability of nutritious food.



  1. Mono-cropping Impact: The Green Revolution altered the cropping pattern to a wheat-paddy cycle, significantly reducing the area under millet cultivation from 37 million hectares in the pre-Green Revolution period to about 14 million hectares. Millets, once a staple diet, have now primarily become fodder crops.
  2. Declining Acreage and Output: Despite efforts to promote millets during the International Year of Millets, the area and production of millets in India fell in the 2023-24 crop year. The acreage under millets decreased by approximately 4%, and the yield dropped by around 7.4%.
  3. Lower Financial Returns: Millets provide less financial return compared to other cereals like wheat and rice. For instance, according to CACP data, the gross returns over A2+FL cost of cultivation for paddy were about 42.1%, whereas it was 19.3% for jowar and 4.1% for ragi.
  4. Declining Millet Consumption: Millets have moved from being a staple food for poor and low-income households to being consumed by middle and high-income groups. However, the average millet intake in India is on the decline.
  5. Supply and Demand Imbalance:
  • According to the NSSO household consumption expenditure survey, millets are not the first choice for either consumers or farmers, with less than 10% of rural and urban households reporting millet consumption.
  • The lack of access to high-yielding variety (HYV) seeds has led to low crop productivity, and limited public awareness of the nutritional benefits of millets has restricted their adoption. Inadequate distribution and market knowledge result in sub-optimal reach, lower price realization, and wastage.
  1. Processing Complications: Some millets require multiple processing stages to optimize grain recovery and retain nutritional value. However, processing millets faces challenges due to variations in millet sizes and the low shelf life of processed millets.
  2. Short Shelf Life: Processed millets, such as millet flour, have a short shelf life due to intrinsic enzyme activities like lipase activity and lipid oxidation, leading to rapid rancidity and bitterness. Millet products are also susceptible to moisture and water activity.
  3. Consumption Ease: Wheat contains gluten proteins that form a cohesive and elastic dough when water is added, resulting in soft chapattis. Millets, being gluten-free, produce harder chapattis, making them less preferred for consumption.
  4. Public Distribution System (PDS) Preferences: For the rural poor, rice and wheat were considered aspirational foods. An expanded PDS has provided access to these fine grains, distinguishing them from coarse grains like millets.


  • National Year of Millets and International Year of Millets        
  • Revamped National Food Security Mission Operational Guidelines (NFSM)
  • Union Budget 23-24 – described millets as ‘Shree Anna’
  • Agricultural Infrastructure Fund (AIF)              
  • 10,000 FPOs’ programme      
  • ‘One District One Product’ (ODOP)    
  • 5-year ‘Millet Mission- by Odisha Government


  1. National and Global Promotion of Millets: Millets, once considered neglected grains, gained unprecedented global and national attention. For example, the promotion of millets at the G20 Dinner highlighted their importance.
  2. Commercialization of Millets: The crop saw significant commercialization, with both large and small companies launching a variety of millet-based products, from cookies to gourmet dishes. This led to the emergence of around 1,000 startups focused on millet production.
  3. Knowledge Dissemination About Millets: The International Year of Millets raised awareness about the importance of millets on both local and global platforms. These crops are recognized for their potential to ensure food security while being environmentally sustainable.
  4. Strengthening Millet Value Chains: The year saw the introduction of several new food trends, including a full range of ready-to-eat millet items, which strengthened the millet value chain. This also led to better price realization for farmers.



  1. Prioritizing Millets in Agricultural Policy: Millets should be prioritized in India's agricultural policy over the next decade. For example, promoting millet production in rice fallows can be a strategic move.
  2. Incorporation into Public Programs: Millets should be integrated into public programs like the Public Distribution System (PDS) and midday meal schemes. Additionally, millets beyond jowar, bajra, and ragi should be included in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) framework provided by the government.
  3. Enhancing Production, Processing, and Storage: Millet cultivation should be promoted due to its climate resilience, short cropping period, and ability to grow in poor soils and mountainous terrains with minimal rainfall. For instance, empowering women millet farmers in rain-fed areas through capacity-building and skills training is essential.
  4. Improving Marketing: To ensure quality sourcing and steady marketing of millets by entrepreneurs, it is crucial to link small and marginal millet farmers to online marketing platforms like the Electronic Agricultural National Market (e-NAM).
  5. Launching Millet Missions: State Governments should initiate millet production missions with the support of international organizations. For example, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has successfully revitalized kodo and kutki farming in Dindori, Madhya Pradesh. Replicating the Dindori model across other districts and for other millets is necessary.


Q: Discuss the achievements of the International Year of Millets (2023) in promoting millet production and consumption globally and nationally. Highlight the challenges faced by millet production in India and suggest a comprehensive way forward to overcome these challenges.(15M,250W)