Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her Budget 2023 speech today said India is the largest producer and second-largest exporter of ‘Shree Anna’ or millets in the world, and that the government aims to make India a “global hub for millets. Millets are of two types – ‘Major millets’ (jowar, bajra and ragi, which constitute 80% of millets grown in India) and ‘minor millets’ (foxtail, little millets, barnyard, kodo and brown-top).

India is the world leader in millet production with a 40% share. “We grow several types of 'Shree Anna' such as jowar, ragi, bajra, kuttu, ramdana, kangni, kutki, kodo, cheena, and sama. These have a number of health benefits and have been an integral part of our food for centuries,” the FM says during her Budget 2023 speech.

She said she acknowledges with pride the huge service done by small farmers in contributing to the health of fellow citizens by growing millets. Quoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the FM says: “India is at the forefront of popularising millets, whose consumption furthers nutrition, food security and welfare of farmers.”

The FM says to make India a global hub for millets, the Indian Institute of Millet Research, Hyderabad will be supported as the Centre of Excellence for sharing best practices, research and technologies at the international level.

Besides, the FM says the Centre will also launch an Atmanirbhar Clean Plant Programme to boost the availability of disease-free, quality planting material for high-value “horticultural crops” at an outlay of Rs 2,200 crore.

Additionally, an agriculture accelerator fund will also be set up to encourage agri-startups by young entrepreneurs in rural areas, says the FM. The fund will aim at bringing innovative and affordable solutions for challenges faced by farmers. It will also bring in modern technologies to transform agricultural practices, and increase productivity and profitability, she adds.

Experts in the industry have welcomed the government's move. “Union Budget of 2023-24 envisions India becoming the global hub for millets. The government has led the campaign for 2023 to be earmarked International Year of Millets and today’s budget proves their intent to drive measures, which can increase the popularity of millets in both domestic and global markets," says Meghana Narayan and Shauravi Malik, co-founders, Wholsum Foods, which makes millet-based children’s food brand Slurrp Farm.

They say initiatives like turning the Indian Institute of Millet Research-Hyderabad into a centre of excellence will help brands achieve India’s millet dreams. The Centre's plan to set up an 'agriculture accelerator fund' will encourage startups to support the government's vision to make millets acceptable across the world, they add.

Notal, in a detailed story 'Mission Millets' in the December month's magazine issue, Fortune India reported that due to surge in popularity, not only are consumers buying millet flours, dosa mixes, cookies and millet milk, hospitality chains such as ITC Hotels have even created a millet menu for business centres and banquets. Bollywood celebrities and cricketers such as Priyanka Chopra, Sonam Kapoor and Virat Kohli are also including bajra and jowar in their diet as well.

The issue reported the current market for millets, according to the Indian Institute of Millet Research, is $9 billion. It is expected to touch $25 billion by 2025. India produces 15.53 million tonnes of millets annually, contributing 10% to the country’s food basket. It exported close to $26 million worth of millets in 2021. The much-smaller branded millet food market is worth ₹500 crore, but with growing interest in millets, it is projected to touch ₹10,000 crore by 2025.

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