India is at the forefront of popularising millet, whose consumption improves food security and the well-being of farmers, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, during the presentation of the Union Budget 2023, on February 1.
“We grow several types of Shree Anna, such as Jowar, Raagi, Bajra, Ramdana, Cheena, and Saama…These have a number of health benefits and have been an integral part of our food for centuries.
“Now, to make India a global hub for Shree Anna Research, the Indian Institute of Millet Research in Hyderabad will be made into a centre of excellence,” she said.
India is the largest producer and second largest exporter of Millets, she added.
The year 2023 has been declared as the ‘International Year of Millet’ by the United Nations following India’s proposal. Central ministries, State governments, and Indian embassies will hold events throughout the year to promote and spread awareness about the benefits of millets for the “cultivator, consumer, and climate”. A government release has said millets will also be an integral part of G-20 meetings.
Millets were earlier referred to as “coarse cereals” or “cereals of the poor”. The Union government renamed these as “Nutri-cereals” owing to their high nutritional value. Millets offer more than one nutrient to the diet and are considered more nutritious than rice and wheat. Millets are rich in iron, dietary fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid, and niacin. These grains contain 7-12% protein, 2-5% fat, 65-75% carbohydrates and 15-20% dietary fibre. Millets are also gluten-free.
Faced with the growing challenge of food and nutritional security, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared 2023 the International Year of Millets to spread awareness about millets — a more affordable, sustainable, and nutritious alternative. The resolution was unanimously adopted by the UNGA in March 2021 after India proposed the initiative. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has termed the initiative as an opportunity to “raise awareness and direct policy attention to the nutritional benefits of millets and their suitability for cultivation”.
India is the largest producer of millet in the world with a share of 41% in 2020, as per FAO. Nine types are grown as kharif crops in over 20 States in the country. Major millets include finger millet (ragi or mandua), pearl millet (bajra), and sorghum (jowar) and minor millets include foxtail millet (kangani or kakun), barnyard millet (sawa or sanwa, jhangora), little millet (kutki), kodo millet (kodon), proso millet (cheena) and browntop millet. Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are leading producers.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented her fifth Union Budget on February 1, for the year 2023-24. She said that the Budget proposals for this financial year rest on inclusive development, reaching the last mile, infrastructure and investment, unleashing the potential, youth power, and financial sector.