Millets are cereal grains that are high in protein, fibre, and antioxidants. A lesser-known fact about these grains is that they are naturally gluten-free and are so robust and sturdy that they can be grown without the use of any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Like a shield, millets are capable of fighting against drought and pests because of their tiny size and hard texture. The size and texture of millets also help them survive harsh conditions of weather. These features make them the ideal candidate for farming in India. Some famous millets are Ragi, Bajra, Jowar amongst others.
Millets in India
Traditionally, India has a history of high millet consumption and cultivation. After the green revolution, once rice and wheat were introduced to our diets and promoted aggressively, millet farming and its consumption dramatically fell. The consumption of millets in India today is over-indexed in tier 2 and 3 cities with most of them only known by their local names.
With increasing water shortage, less land is available for cultivation, and increasing heat due to global warming - millets are a fantastic opportunity for a populated country like India. For one, the grain is not new to our diets and our households. as traditional recipes exist for most of them. For the convenience-seeking population, we have a variety of Ready To Eat and Ready To Cook products available including Multigrain Flakes with Jowar and Bajra, Millet Granola with Bajra and Jowar flakes, and Mysore Millet Dosa Mix with Little, Kodo, Ragi, and Jowar.
Millets are well adapted to regional lifestyles in India from a relevant perspective. While Karnataka has Ragi (Finger Millet/Nachani), Maharashtra has Jowar (Sorghum) and Rajasthan has Bajra (Pearl Millet). Tamil Nadu is endowed with Kodo and Little Millets- this makes access to Millets very easy, from the supply chain point of view. All this, while being gluten-free and rich in protein, fibre & antioxidants.
The Future of India with Millets
In the context where 14% of our population stands at being undernourished, Millets can play a pivotal role in reducing the nutritional gap. Not only can Millets help meet nutritional needs optimally but they being ‘hardy crops' aids the possibility of scaling their adoption to large populations.
Considering global warming and severe changes in our climatology in the years to come, the only solution is to shift to more economical means of cultivation that withstand extreme weather conditions while also benefiting the lives of the farmers. This again leads us to Millets. Millet farming will indeed become the rising star among all the other agricultural crops.
Adapting to the taste of millets may not be everyone's cup of tea. The average city worker would not be ecstatic to come home to jowar, bajra or ragi rotis, which were traditional favourites but have not been in mainstream consumption for a few decades.
To address this, brands are moving towards creating newer products and innovating with millets. There are already several millet-based products in the market that can delight on sensorial, are modern in appeal & can easily become your healthy alternative to your staple meals. Products such as Bajra Flakes, Jowar Flakes, Pancake Mix with Jowar flour, Ragi and Jowar Dosa Mix, Dessert Mix made with Ragi are a few examples.
While many brands are innovating and creating products, it is best to rely on brands who centre their process on using the best quality millet & keeping the final product clean i.e without preservatives & chemicals. Brands that leverage contract farming and those who have certifications like "clean label certified", "100 percent wholegrain certified" can have an upper hand in terms of delivering maximum nutrition. Look out for them on the products you buy. Contract farming enables brands to source directly from the farmers thereby ensuring higher quality grains. And stamps from global bodies like Clean Label Project or Whole Grain council help endorse the quality and nutritional goodness.