Millets refer to a variety of small-grained, warm-weather, drought resistant, annual cereals that are widely cultivated in many parts of the world for use as food and fodder. Millets have been an important staple in parts of Asia and Africa for centuries. These grains are called nutritious grains or nutri-cereals due to their amazing nutritional composition.
India is a leading consumer, producer and exporter of nutri-cereals in the world. India, Niger and China together account for more than half of the global production.
India produces 12 million MT of millets annually and accounts for around 40% of the global production of millets. Millets are grown in about 21 states viz., Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana.
Millets are a rich source of protein, fibre, minerals, iron, calcium and have a low glycemic index. These nutri-cereals are suitably cultivated in arid and semi-arid land areas having low rainfall (200-600 mm). These grains are known for being rich in nutrient content and characteristics like drought resistance, photo-insensitivity, resilience to climate change, etc. Besides consumers, these nutri-cereals are being increasingly favoured by the farmers as these grains are climate-friendly and drought resistant crops and can be grown in infertile soil conditions.
Millets are found to be gluten-free and are considered good food for people having diabetes. These grains are loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and are helpful in tackling various diseases. Millets are anti-carcinogenic and anti-hypertensive thus aid people in keeping obesity and heart diseases at bay.
The year 2023 has been earmarked as the International Year of Millets for raising awareness about the health benefits of the grain and its suitability for cultivation under changing climatic conditions. India celebrated 2018 as the National Year of Millets for encouraging cultivation and consumption of these nutri-cereals.
A Dozen Varieties Grown
Various varieties of millets are grown in India, viz., Jowar (Sorghum), Bajra (Pearl millet), Ragi (Finger millet), Sawa (Barnyard millet), Cheena (Proso millet), Kangni (Foxtail millet), Kodo (Kodo millet), Kutki (Little millet).
Sorghum is a rainfed staple cereal grown in the semi-arid and arid land areas of India. It is a staple human food as well as an important fodder for animals. Sorghumis cultivated during rainy (kharif) and post-rainy seasons. The kharif Sorghum is grown between the months of July and October while rabi Sorghum is grown during October-February. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradeshare the major Sorghum growing states in the country. Soils with clay loam or loam texture having good water-retention capacity are most suited for Sorghum cultivation.
Bajra (Pearl millet)
India is the largest producer of Pearl millet in the world with 8.75 million hectares of marginal and sub-marginal land area under its cultivation. This important rainfed crop is primarily grown in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Warm dry climate with adequate soil moisture is suitable for Pearl millet. Loamy sands to well-drained loams free from salinity and alkalinity are ideal for the crop. Pearl millet is a grain rich in minerals, protein, essential amino acids and fat content.
Small millets include six small-seeded crops, viz., finger millet, foxtail millet, porso millet, kodo millet, little millet and barnyard millet. These are primarily rainfed crops grown in an area of 2.29 million hectares in India with Finger millet occupying the largest area (1.6 million hectares). Small millets are well suited to diverse agro-climatic conditions of soil, temperature and altitudes and are thus grown at the sea-level in the south to the hills in Uttarakhand and North-east.
Millets– All India Area and Production
India is one of the leading exporters of millets in the world. Nepal, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, the UK, Yemen, Oman, and Algeria are the major export destinations.
Millets Export from India
Source: Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India
- Handbook of Agriculture, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, August 2021
- Textbook of Field Crops Production: Foodgrain Crops, Volume-I, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, August 2021
- India: The new global market for millets https://newsonair.com/2022/02/14/india-the-new-global-market-for-millets/