Union Minister of State for M/o Food Processing Industries, Shri Prahlad Singh Patel, inaugurated the National Conference on Millets on the theme 'The Future Super Food for India' in New Delhi, organized by industry body ASSOCHAM with the support of M/o Food Processing Industries. The conference has been organized to discuss opportunities and challenges in ensuring food and nutritional security.
In his inaugural address, the Union Minister said that the production of coarse cereals in the country has increased to 17.96 million tons in 2020-21 from 14.52 million tons in 2015-16 and the production of bajra (pearl millet) has also increased to 10.86 million tons in the same period.
Shri Prahlad Singh Patel said that due to its ability to be easily preserved for a long time even under ordinary conditions, coarse grain is also considered a storehouse in times of famine.
Talking about advantages of Millets at the National Conference on Millets, the Minister of State for M/o FPI said that Millets have been among the oldest eatables in the country. It is a crop grown from small seeds which can be grown well in dry areas or even on lands with deficient and low fertility thus is known as the superfood of India.
The Minister shared that due to their short growing season, millets can develop from seeds to ready-to-harvest crops in just about 65 days and this characteristic of the millets is of vital importance in thickly populated regions of the world. If stored properly, millets can keep well for two years or beyond. He stated that there is a need to mainstream millets to improve India's nutrition outcomes.
Shri Prahlad Singh Patel noted that the Government of India has already revised the guidelines to facilitate the movement of the surplus production of millets to other states. The provision of inter-state transportation of surplus millets through the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is incorporated to cater for advance demands placed by consuming states before the start of procurement.
The major millets producing states in India include Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
Minhaj Alam, Joint Secretary, M/o Food Processing Industries talked about spreading awareness of millets all around the globe as India is now the 5th largest exporter of millets globally. He informed that year 2023 will be the international year of millets that will create value generation and promotion of sustainable products in food choices. He added that more investments are required in production and processing of millets.
Vivek Chandra, Chairman, Food Processing and Value Addition Council, ASSOCHAM & CEO-Global Branded Business, LT Foods kick-started the conference with a welcome and theme address. He thanked the Ministry of Food processing industries for their support and guidance in organizing this National Conference on Millets. He added, "The purpose of today's conference is to align the discussion and share our viewpoints in leveraging and strengthening the millets' segment and realize its importance in the food processing industry. We need to consider what can be done to include it in our daily diet. Also, we need to focus on utilizing millet as a commodity that will benefit all the stakeholders whether they are farmers, consumers, or industry leaders."
Ramsinh Rathwa, chairman, Tribal Co-Operative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED) highlighted the urgency of paying attention to the tribal community's food culture and habits. "The lifestyle tribals live and their food choices should be taken care of to save their communities. Millets have all kinds of nutrients that are important for growth and health. It can help tackle malnutrition, which is quite common in India."
Tarun Vij, Country Director India, GAIN, emphasized the need to understand Indian and global food systems and what these are delivering and what are not really. He underlined that without the collaboration of the private sector, civil society, research in academia, and the governments, the aim we all want to achieve would be impossible. He also mentioned about the other areas that demand attention are the food environment, consumer behavior, and new supply chains.
Bhupesh Chaudhary, Department of Industries, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, also mentioned, "Millets are not the superfood for the future. It was always our past; it was always a part of our legacy, it was always a part of our culture and history. Millets are the original superfoods, and they're not superfoods because of their nutrients; they are good for the environment, the farmer, and the consumer."
Arun Om Lal, Co-Chairman, Food Processing and Value Addition Council, ASSOCHAM & President-Corporate Affairs & Communications, Hexagon Nutrition, concluded the session with his remarks and vote of thanks, "India is becoming the new global market for millets. And as the demands increase, India has become a global market for this nutritious crop. India is an important customer, consumer, and producer of this worldwide."
According to him, the changing nature of the requirements of the value chain changes the extent of the complexity of information value. He added, "The food ecosystem has to be a strategic partner between interdependent businesses that can come together to progressively create value for the end consumer resulting in a collective competence. I once again thank all our speakers for highlighting the ways to overcome the challenge for millets, as greater collaboration and cooperation, both upstream and downstream, will be required between various stakeholders in the value chain."
The conference also included brainstorming sessions of subject experts on ‘Millets – Exploring opportunities to harness consumer demand and promoting millets as the source of essential nutrients’ and the ‘Way forward to develop and strengthen the value chain for millets’. The day-long conference served as a good networking platform for the industry stakeholders, identifying solutions and issuing a call for action to promote sustainable food systems that foster diversified, balanced and healthy diets that include a variety of foods.