Addressing the FICCI Millet Conclave ‘Shree Anna’, Shubha Thakur, Joint Secretary (Crops, Oil Seeds), Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, expressed her delight at the engagement of younger individuals and the vibrant startup movement promoting millets. Reflecting on the past one and a half years, she noted the significant growth of startups in the millet sector, which has captured the attention of the highest levels of government. She emphasised the importance of making the millet movement a mass movement in India and globally. “From climate-smart to income-smart; it is time to bring Amrit Kaal for Shree Anna (millets) and Indian farmers,” she added.
Speaking at the conclave, Dr Sudhanshu, Secretary at APEDA, highlighted the emergence of more than 80 startups in the millet sector within the past year and a half, responsible for developing well-packaged products, and acknowledged the innovation from large retail organisations.
He emphasised the need for continuous efforts to provide guidance and support to small entrepreneurs and startups in the millet area, recognising the need for handholding rather than focusing solely on large export houses. In addition, he stressed sustaining the momentum after the launch of the campaign and expressing the commitment to take it to the next level.
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Speaking on occasion, TR Kesavan, Chairman of the FICCI National Agriculture Committee & Group President, TAFE, passionately advocated for integrating millets into the regular diet, emphasising its multifaceted benefits, including nutritional value, climatic resilience, and income generation for farmers. He highlighted the challenges in cultivation, the need for mechanisation, and the importance of making millets profitable.
Celebrity Chef Ranveer Brar, in his special address, passionately endorsed the ‘International Year of the Millets – 2023’ campaign, urging a return to the traditional use of millets in Indian cuisine. Reflecting on the nation’s culinary history, he emphasised that millets were once extensively used across all cultures, states, and cuisines in India before being overshadowed by rice and wheat. He dismissed the notion that cooking with millets is difficult. “I’ve always, as a chef, said that as a country, we’ve all grown up eating millet, and then somewhere down the line, we moved on to rice and wheat. I think we need to unlearn,” Chef Brar said, encouraging a return to culinary roots to understand how millets were originally used. The chef also highlighted the environmental responsibility associated with millets, describing it as a low environmental impact grain, especially concerning water consumption.
In his address, Padma Shri Dr Khader Vali, known as the Millet Man of India, passionately advocated for millets to eliminate various diseases. He emphasised that millets go beyond nutrition, offering a unique solution to global health challenges. Dr Vali highlighted the sustainable cultivation of millets, which requires minimal water, and lamented the disappearance of many traditional varieties. His insights served as a call to action, urging a reconnection with millets, recognising their unparalleled health benefits, and promoting sustainable cultivation.
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Ravinder Balain, President South Asia at Corteva Agriscience, highlighted the United Nations’ declaration of 2023 as the International Year of Millets on India’s proposal and the Indian government’s subsequent initiatives to raise awareness about millets. Corteva is built on a belief in partnering with farmers and has been working to support resilience by advancing economic, environmental and social sustainability through proven science. He said that in Corteva, they firmly believe that “When Farmers succeed, everyone wins.”
On the occasion, FICCI PwC Knowledge Report: Propelling India’s millet sector towards a sustainable future, was released. Speaking on the report, Shashi Kant Singh, Partner at PwC India, outlined the policy implications for the next 10 to 15 years, production aspects, awareness creation, innovation, and market development for millets. He emphasised the need to create both domestic and international demand for millets. He acknowledged the significant work done by the government in promoting millets. Singh also suggested that this can well be a jewel in India’s soft power diplomacy, reflecting the growing importance of the ‘Shree Anna’ in the global context.
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The programme also saw the felicitation of winners of the 2nd Edition of Millet Startups Awards and Millet Idea Competition of Higher Education Students on “Creating India’s Millet Revolution: Game-Changing Idea”.
Speakers congratulated the FICCI Task Force in Millets under Jitendra Joshi from Corteva and members from different segments of value chain on the completion of one year. A bajra cake was also cut to celebrate the occasion.
Key highlights of the FICCI-PwC Report: Propelling India’s millet sector towards a sustainable future
As part of the International Year of Millets (IYOM) 2023 celebrating these environment-friendly and highly nutritious crops, this knowledge paper also highlights the role of millets in ushering in economic prosperity along with proposed ways to achieve these goals. The report comprises three sections: knowing our nutri cereals, current perceptions about millets and mainstreaming millets.
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To mainstream millets and bring the “Shree Anna” to every plate, the report proposes a four-pronged strategy, in addition to celebrating a ‘Decade of Millets’:
Production enhancement interventions entail crop and varietal improvements, concerted efforts on value-added product development, innovations in production and processing technologies, and holistic policy support for millet promotion.
The awareness creation facet in the proposed strategy highlights the importance of mainstreaming millets and prioritising the interests of cultivators, consumers, and investors alike.
Innovations for increasing the area under millet cultivation along with dedicated product development endeavours would be helpful in increasing consumption.
Demand generation through public-private partnership models and global initiatives would be helpful in the long run to sustain the fervour.