Millets are far healthier than rice and wheat one eats daily and offer a completely different value proposition at a time when there is a worry about a global food shortage, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said.
Addressing the members of the Indian diaspora here in the Austrian capital on Sunday, Jaishankar said India can grow millets which offers a solution to the growing food demands across the globe.
The government announced on January 1 it has lined up a series of millet-centric promotional activities across the country as the International Year of Millets (IYM) kicks in.
“Millets are far healthier for all of us than the cereals, rice and wheat we eat every day. It was the food that was most prevalent in our societies till it was displaced. It requires much less water and is much more carbon friendly,” Jaishankar said.
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“Today in a world where there is worry about food shortage, millet offers a completely different value proposition. In fact, today for almost every five kilos of wheat grown in India, one kilo of millets is grown and consumed,” he said.
Millets were among the first crops to be domesticated in India with several evidence of its consumption during the Indus valley civilization. Being grown in more than 130 countries at present, millet is considered traditional food for more than half a billion people across Asia and Africa.
“We can actually grow it. It is a solution to a lot of our growing food demands. Not just us, but also a lot of countries in Africa, Asia and parts of the Middle East,” said Jaishankar, who arrived in Austria from Cyprus on the second leg of his two-nation tour.
In India, millets are primarily a Kharif crop, requiring less water and agricultural inputs than other similar staples. Millets are important by virtue of their mammoth potential to generate livelihoods, increase farmers’ income and ensure food and nutritional security all over the world.
Millets are also an integral part of the G-20 meetings and delegates will be given a true millet experience through tasting, meeting farmers and interactive sessions with start-ups and FPOs.
“We hope to do during our G20 presidency, in fact already are doing today, that every foreign visitor I receive in India or the Prime Minister receives in India, a substantial part of the meal today is millet based,” Jaishankar said.
On December 6, the UN body Food and Agriculture Organization organised an opening ceremony for the IYM in Rome, Italy. The Indian government hosted a special ‘Millet Luncheon’ for Members of Parliament in the Parliament complex.
Recognising the enormous potential of Millets, which also aligns with several U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), India has prioritised millets. In April 2018, millets were rebranded as “Nutri Cereals”, followed by the year 2018 being declared as the National Year of Millets.
The UN’s declaration as IYM 2023 has been instrumental for India to be at the forefront in celebrating the millet year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also shared his vision to make IYM 2023 a ”people’s movement” alongside positioning India as the ”Global hub of millets”.
The global millets market is projected to register a CAGR of 4.5 per cent between 2021-2026.