Why India’s push for millets is yet to gain widespread traction
Nov. 26, 2022

In News:

  • A pre-launch celebration of International Year of Millets was held recently in New Delhi.
  • It was organised by the Ministries of Agriculture and External Affairs.

What’s in today’s article:

  • Millets – about, historical background, millets around the world, significance
  • Millets in India – Production, millets under PDS, steps taken by the govt


  • The word “millets” is used to describe small-grained cereals like sorghum (jowar), pearl millet (bajra), foxtail millet (kangni/ Italian millet), little millet (kutki), etc.
  • They require much less water than rice and wheat, and are mainly grown in rainfed areas.

Historical background:

  • Millets were among the first crops to be domesticated.
  • There is evidence for consumption of millets by the Indus valley people (3,000 BC), and several varieties that are now grown around the world were first cultivated in India.
  • West Africa, China, and Japan are home to indigenous varieties of the crop.

Millets around the world

  • Globally, sorghum (jowar) is the biggest millet crop.
  • The major producers of jowar are United States, China, Australia, India, Argentina, Nigeria, and Sudan.
  • Bajra is another major millet crop; India and some African countries are major producers.


  • Food security
    • Millets are a climate-friendly crop that can even be grown in drought-hit areas.
    • COVID was a period that reminded the world what a pandemic could do to food security. Hence, experts are highlighting the importance of millets.
  • High nutritive value
    • Millets are considered to be powerhouses of nutrition. In April 2018, the Agriculture Ministry declared certain millets as Nutri Cereals for the purposes of production, consumption, and trade
      • These include:
        • Jowar, bajra, ragi/ mandua,
        • the minor millets — kangani/ kakun, cheena, kodo, sawa/ sanwa/ jhangora, and kutki
        • the two pseudo millets, buckwheat (kuttu) and amaranth (chaulai).
    • Millets are more nutritious compared to fine cereals. Millets contain 7-12% protein, 2-5% fat, 65-75% carbohydrates and 15-20% dietary fibre.
  • Political significance
    • Millet is grown mainly in low-income and developing countries in Asia and Africa, and are part of the food basket of about 60 crore people across the globe.
    • By proposing the resolution to celebrate 2023 as the International Year of Millets, India pitched itself as a leader of this group.
    • This is similar to the Indian initiative on the 121-nation International Solar Alliance.
  • Health benefits
    • Millets reduce Anemia, liver disorders, and Asthma.
    • Their high dietary fiber provides hunger satisfaction and helps reduce obesity and the risk of Type II Diabetes.

Millets in India


  • As per the data of Agriculture Ministry, in India, millets are mainly a kharif crop.
  • During 2018-19, three millet crops — bajra (3.67%), jowar (2.13%), and ragi (0.48%) — accounted for about 7 per cent of the gross cropped area in the country.
  • Jowar is mainly grown in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, and Madhya Pradesh.
    • Maharashtra accounted for the largest area and production of jowar during 2020-21.
  • Bajra is mainly grown in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
    • Rajasthan accounted to the largest area and production of Bajra during 2020-21.

Millets under PDS

  • Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, eligible households are entitled to get rice, wheat, and coarse grain at Rs 3, Rs 2, and Re 1 per kg respectively.
  • While the Act does not mention millets, coarse grains are included in the definition of “foodgrains” under Section 2(5) of the NFSA.
  • However, the quantity of coarse grains procured for the Central Pool and distributed under the NFSA has been negligible.

Steps taken by the govt.

  • The push to distribute coarse grains under the PDS has not gained momentum.
  • The Centre has accepted the recommendation of a committee set up by it, that millets be included in the PDS in order to improve nutritional support.
  • The government has set a target to procure 13.72 LMT coarse grains during the Kharif Marketing Season (KMS) 2022-23, more than double the 6.30 LMT procured during KMS 2021-22.

Year of Millets

  • In March, 2021, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
  • The proposal was moved by India, and was supported by 72 countries.
  • The International Year of Millets will raise awareness about the importance of millets in food security and nutrition.