Boosting Millets Productivity in India

India is the leading producer of millets worldwide. The top five states in the country that produce a major proportion of it are Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The smaller millet producing states include Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

While millets were put on the backburner for years, there has been a revaluation of these small grains and their relevance subsequently. Eminent scientists have been stressing the importance of millets for years, pointing out that they are a winning proposition both in terms of food security and fulfilling the nutritional goals of Indians.

Also, in the recent years the beneficial effects of millets are being harnessed in fitness diets and therapeutic uses, to not only treat nutrient deficiencies but also as a regular part of a healthy, nutritionally balanced meal. These superfoods are being studied to reintroduce them into the Indian diet as vehicles to curb nutritional deficiencies like protein energy malnutrition, iron deficiency anaemia and many other micro and macronutrient deficiencies specifically in certain vulnerable groups—pregnant and lactating women, for example and children under the age of five years.

When India celebrated the Year of Millets in 2018, the Government organised programmes and extended assistance, incentives and subsidies to millet farmers. Alongside, mass education and awareness programmes have also been launched through different channels since then. Different ministries and departments of the Central Government have undertaken programmes and activities to promote millets around the country. The Government of India continues to encourage millet production and consumption through its inclusion in the Public Distribution System (PDS) and Mid- day Meal Programmes (MDM) in certain states.

States such as Odisha, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana have also undertaken initiatives for millet development at their own level. As India enters the International Year of the Millet, the growth story of millets and their popularity is expected to boom.

It is important to first understand and identify different varieties of millets—the way they look, their local names and what they have to offer—before we can embrace them and incorporate them in our diets more regularly. This, precisely, is the focus of this chapter.

Here is a ready reckoner that will be useful for you to know millets better.