By promoting millets from international platforms, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has offered a vision for global food security that is both sustainable and eco-friendly. It is heartening to see that India is leading by example, with the government working actively to promote millet culture at home.
India’s suggestion to make the current year the millet mission year got acceptance by the United Nations General Assembly. Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed to the global body that millets be given worldwide attention as these low-cost nutritional cereals can ensure food security in the poverty-stricken countries of Asia and Africa.
The International Year of Millets (IYOM) 2023 coincides with India’s presidency of the Group of Twenty (G20). At the behest of India, the UN declared 2023 a year of millets, supported by more than 70 countries. Dedicating the current year to millets will help create global awareness about the pivotal roles of millets in the sustainable farm sector and benefits as a super-food.
Millets can be grown in dry lands at lower costs. Millets are an affordable food crop with high nutritional content. Developing and underdeveloped countries in Asia and Africa have been battling food security issues as grain production has not been consistent for various reasons.
For India, the success of grain production largely depends on the success of the summer rainy season, known as the Southwest Monsoon. If the Monsoon fails, the overall grain production takes a hit with high food price-led inflation. Conversely, it is true when the Monsoon succeeds in a year. The entire discourse of food products was entwined with the success or failure of the June to September Monsoon season until the corona virus (COVID-19) struck. The world revisited the issue of food security after the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Modi-led government has been celebrating the IYOM 2023 as a year for people’s movement so that the Indian millets, recipes, and value-added products are accepted globally. The celebration of the IYOM-23 endeavours to provide a unique opportunity to increase global production, ensure efficient processing and consumption, promote better utilisation of crop rotations and encourage better connectivity throughout food systems to promote millets as a sizable component of the food basket.
Millets can be grown in dry lands and are an affordable food crop with high nutritional content. Developing and underdeveloped countries have been battling food security issues as grain production has not been consistent for various reasons.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has accorded importance to raising awareness and creating momentum for the IYOM 2023 by engaging its members and other relevant stakeholders. FAO urged members to highlight the benefits of promoting the sustainable cultivation and consumption of millets.
“Millets are good for the consumer, cultivator, and climate,” Modi said in a message at FAO headquarter in Rome during the opening ceremony of IYOM 2023. In this special message, Modi said our health status gets impacted if agriculture becomes monoculture. He said millets are an effective way to increase agriculture and dietary diversity. Modi touched upon the need to raise awareness to create ‘Millet Mindfulness’ and drew attention to the role of institutions and individuals in this regard. Modi said institutional mechanisms need to play a positive role in ensuring the promotion of the production of millets, making the production of millets profitable through policy initiatives. Individuals could make health-consciousness and plant-friendly choices by including millets in their diet.
The IYOM 2023 provides a scope to raise global production, efficient processing and better use of crop rotation and promote millets as a super component of the global food basket.
A farm ministry official said India is committed to increasing the domestic and global demand for millet.
The Indian farm ministry has been working in a mission mode to increase millet production and consumption in sync with other federal ministries, state governments and stakeholders like APEDA. “The time has come for the Public Distribution System to shift the focus of distribution programmes from basic calories to provide a more diverse food basket that includes millets to improve the nutritional status of preschool children and women of reproductive age,” said Narendra Singh Tomar, agriculture minister, at a pre-launch celebration of IYOM-23 last year.
In 2018, Tomar’s ministry notified millets as nutritional cereals after realising the potential nutritional value of millets. Millets are included in the Poshan Mission campaign, a government’s flagship programme that aims to improve nutrition outcomes for children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.
The nutritious benefits of millet include being full of dietary fibre, rich in calcium, and unsaturated fat, high in protein and minerals including iron and zinc, contain foliate, magnesium, copper, vitamin-E and B-complex, low glycaemia index to address intolerances and diabetes, gluten-free, anti-diabetic and antioxidant properties.
In the pre-launch event of IYOM-23 in November, India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar said millets have gained relevance in the world in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and geopolitical conflicts. Millets are important for a nation’s food security and international relations, he said.
Jaishankar said COVID-19 was a challenging period that reminded the world what a pandemic could do to the issue of food security.
Jaishankar highlighted climate changes could also lower production and impact the food trade. He advocated that greater attention should be given to the issues of food security in matters related to international relations.
India’s production of millets increased from 14.52 million tonnes in 2015-16 to the highest at 18.02 million tonnes in 2020-21, according to the farm ministry, a reflection of the Indian government’s concerted efforts to raise the production of nutritional cereals.