The Centre’s decision to designate the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) as a Centre of Excellence to make India a global hub is a welcome move. It can be a game-changing decision to promote the consumption of millets.


What are millets?

  • Millets are one of the oldest foods, these are the small-seeded hardy crops which can grow well in dry zones or rain-fed areas under marginal conditions of soil fertility and moisture. Millets are cultivated in low-fertile land, tribal and rain-fed and mountainous areas.
  • Millets can not only grow in poor climatic or soil conditions and provide nutritious grain as well as fodder, but these can also very well fit into multiple cropping systems under irrigation as well as dryland farming due to their short growing season.
  • The prolonged and easy storability of millets under ordinary conditions has given them the status of Famine Reserves and this feature is of great importance for India, as the agriculture of our country suffers from unexpected changes in monsoon.   


Millets in India

  • The major millets grown in India are Pearl Millet (Bajra), Sorghum (Jowar), Finger Millet (Ragi), Foxtail Millet (Kangni), Proso (Cheena), Barnyard Millet (Sawan), Little Millet (Kutki), and Kodo Millet. All these are rich in fibre, minerals, and Vitamins. Pearl Millet, for instance, has the highest content of macro as well as micronutrients such as iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, folic acid, and riboflavin.
  • Many of these are missing in rice or wheat. Scientific studies link millets intake to blood sugar control, reduced inflammation, improved digestion, and lower risk of heart diseases and cancer.
  • Major producers include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.
  • Over 500 Startups are working in Millet value chain with the Indian Institute on Millet Research. More than Rs.6.2 crores has been disbursed to over 66 Startups while about 25 Startups have been approved for further funding.


What should be done now?

  • In its many avatars in the last 60 years, the institute has done phenomenal research in millets. It, in fact, played a crucial role in bringing millets back on the menus.
  • The CoE must take the efforts to the next level. As it attempts to play a key role in the global ecosystem of millets, it must set its priorities right to cash in on the favourable atmosphere created at least in the urban areas.
      • Focus on increasing yields — Firstly, it must focus on increasing yields as the area under millets has either stagnated or reduced as cash crops continue to make gains. That the percentage distribution of gross cropped area of ragi, an important millet crop, has come down to 0.48 in 2020 from 0.60 in 2014, while that of jowar reduced to 3.67 from 4.03 during the period. While we can’t arrest this trend, we must at least focus on increasing yields.
      • Popularise consumption — Similarly, we need to take concrete steps on the consumption side to make wider sections of the population benefit from the nutrition-rich millets. In order to do that, the Centre should encourage States to include millets in the Public Distribution System. Also, millets should find a place in the mid-day food programmes of schools. If students are not willing to take it as the main course, governments can consider giving them snacks made of millets.
      • Ready to adopt — The good news is that IIMR has readied recipes, why even ready-to-eat products and technologies to produce them, that appeal to the taste buds of people of all ages.



Since it is also the International Year of Millets, we must make global efforts to promote the millet ecosystem. Roping in sports celebrities as brand ambassadors would be a good idea.


SourceThe Hindu Business Line


QUESTION – What are millets? How is the decision of government to designate the Indian Institute of Millets Research as a ‘centre of excellence’ going to make a major impact on these crops?