2023 – The International Year Of Millets: What It Means

2023 is going to be celebrated as International Year of Millets; what is the aim and its significance

Millets – the super grain that is high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, is often touted as a ’superfood’ because of its high nutritional value. As per Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, India is a major producer of Millets, accounting for 80 per cent of Asia’s production and 20 per cent of global production. IT had been the major staple food in central India for centuries, but after the advent of high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat during the 1970s, millets slowly got side-lined from the food basket.

A Quick Breakup Of Millets Production In India

Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare adds that up to 1965-70, millets were part of 20 per cent of total food grain basket in India, which has now decreased to mere 6 per cent.

Creating A Demand For Millets

To bring back millets and create domestic, global demand and to provide nutritional food to the people, the Government of India decided to mark the National Year of Millets in 2018. Keeping in view the nutritional value of the millets, the Government also notified Millets as nutri-cereals in the same year and included it under the POSHAN Mission Abhiyan. In 2021, India had proposed to United Nations for declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYOM). The proposal of India got support from 72 countries and United Nation’s General Assembly (UNGA) declared 2023 as International Year of Millets. Now, Government of India has decided to celebrate 2023 as the International Year of Millets, to make it a peoples’ movement so that Indian millet, recipes, value added products are accepted globally.

Aim Of The International Year Of Millets

According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), year 2023 aims to,
– Elevate awareness about the contribution of millets for food security and nutrition
– Inspire stakeholders on improving sustainable production and quality of millets
– Draw focus for enhanced investment in research and development and extension services to achieve the other two aims.

Preparatory Steps Taken By India For The International Year of Millets

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, following are the steps taken by India for International Year of Millets (IYoM), 2023

– Core committee has been formed
– Consultation on how to promote millets production and supply in the country has been held with different States, Processors, Chefs/ Nutritionists, Farmers
– Indian Institute of Millet Research (IIMR) has been made a Nodal Institute for keeping track of all the policies, activities and communication
– 6 Task forces have been constituted to ensure on ground implementation

Talking about the same and the importance of marking International Year of Millets in 2023, in the latest monthly address of Mann Ki Baat, PM Narendra Modi Maan Ki Baat said, “Millets are beneficial for the farmers and especially the small farmers. In fact, the crop gets ready in a very short time, and does not require much water either. Millets contain plenty of protein, fiber, and minerals. Many people even call it a superfood. Millets have many benefits, not just one. Along with reducing obesity, they also reduce the risk of diabetes, hypertension and heart-related diseases. Along with that, they are also helpful in preventing stomach and liver ailments. Millets are also very beneficial in fighting malnutrition, since they are packed with energy as well as protein.”

To motivate innovative solutions from people, recently, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had also announced the “Millet Challenge” for startups, with a seed grant of Rs 1 crore each to three winners, who will help design and develop innovative models for and across the millets value chain. She also announced Rs 25 crore funding by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development under Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) to University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur, for establishment of Millet Value Chain Park, incubation centre for processing, value addition, and capacity building for promotion of millets.

How Millets Can Be A Game-changer For India’s Nutritional Programme

Speaking to NDTV, Dr. Raj Bhandari Member National Technical Board of Nutrition and Health, NITI Aayog said,

“Positioning of millets in the form of value added minimally processed products will pave way for Swasth Bharat. The positive attributes of this power packed nutri-cereals will also keep at bay, silent killers like diabetes and hypertension.”

Talking about the environmental aspect and how indirectly it will help people live a much healthier lifestyle, Joanna Kane-Potaka, Executive Director, Smart Food Initiative, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) said, “You may have heard of superfoods; foods that are super nutritious. Millets are this and more, they are basically smart food that is good for you, good for the farmer and good for the planet.”

Highlighting food security and how millets can help, Dr Dayakar Rao of Indian Institute of Millet Research, Hyderabad adds,

“Millets can grow in poor quality soil and create a good plan B for food security. With the growing population and the climate change scenario food security may become an issue in the future.”

Benefits Of Having Millets

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India states that millets are high in nutrition and dietary fibre. It adds that millets contain:

* 7-12 per cent protein
* 2-5 per cent fat
* 65-75 per cent carbohydrates
* 15-20 per cent dietary fibre

It also states that the essential amino acid present in millets is way better than many crops in India and thus plays an important role in benefiting the overall health.

FSSAI also adds that consuming millets also helps fight cardiovascular diseases as millet consumption decreases triglycerides. It states that millets are also known for preventing Type 2 diabetes and reducing blood pressure.

Indian Institute of Millet Research states that the fiber present in Millets helps keep “bad” cholesterol in the blood under check and helps protect the heart.

Dr. Hema Divakar, Technical Advisor, Ministry of Maternal Health and Family Welfare, Medical Director Divakars Speciality Hospital, Past President FOGSI said,

“India is presently having the triple burden of undernutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies and also a tsunami of Diabetes. If Rice/wheat which is the staple food, is replaced with locally grown millets, like Ragi, Bajra, Jowar, we will be ensuring a rich supply of iron to tackle aneamia, calcium for bone strength. A significant proportion of proteins to combat protein malnutrition, and a good amount of fiber present will tackle obesity, and is a part of advice for weight loss programmes. Low glycemic index aids in preventing the tsunami of diabetes. Thus, tackling triple burden and more.”

She further added,

“Millets benefits need to be popularized amongst masses through sustained and effective campaign and research needs to be done to develop high yielding varieties and also varieties with longer shelf life. Jowar, Bajra and Ragi need to be promoted through the Public Distribution System across the country to improve nutritional content in the diet of the masses.”

Source: 2023 - The International Year Of Millets: What It Means | Poshan Maah (ndtv.com)