Radha Mohan Singh, the Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has sent a proposal to United Nations for declaring the year 2018 as ‘International Year of Millets’. The proposal, if agreed, will raise awareness about millets among consumers, policymakers, industry and R&D sector.
Millet is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dry land-cereals and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets. As an important staple cereal crop for millions of smallholder dryland farmers across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, millets offer nutrition, resilience, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times. They have multiple untapped uses such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing.
Nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their higher levels of protein with a balanced amino acid profile, crude fibre & minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous, millets can provide nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women. Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten-free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.
Adapted to low or no purchased inputs and to the harsh environment of the semi-arid tropics, they are the backbone of dryland agriculture. In times of climate change, they are often the last crop standing and thus, are a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.