(GIST OF YOJANA) Millets-Ancient Grains for Healthy Future

(GIST OF YOJANA) Millets-Ancient Grains for Healthy Future


Millets-Ancient Grains for Healthy Future


  • Millets have been a part of the Indian food basket for hundreds of years. They are deeply ingrained in our food systems, culture, and traditions. They find mention in religious texts and are a part of many traditional Indian practices. Interactions with elders in the family and farmers throw light on their consumption in older times. In the Indian subcontinent, millets were used as a staple in most households prior to the Green Revolution.

Millets in Indian Literature:

  • India has a rich tradition of consumption of millets. There have been innumerable sources of literature and documents that suggest how millets were an intrinsic part of our food habits, culinary, rituals, and society at large.
  • Kalidasa, in his `Abhijnana Shakuntalam’, has sage Kanva pouring foxtail millet while bidding farewell to Shakuntala in Dushyant’s court, which indicates the auspicious nature attributed to this millet. 
  • There is mention of millets in Yajur Veda’s verses. 
  • Sushruta in his Samhita classified cereals as dhanya varga, khudhanya varga and samidhanya varga where khudhanya varga included various millets.
  • Kannada poet Kanakdasa personified ragi as the weaker sections of society through his metaphoric creation `Rarnacilaanya Charitre’, which showed its conflict with the ‘mighty’ rice and gave a powerful social message.
  • Kautilya’s Arthashastra has a mention of various millets and their various properties when soaked or boiled. 
  • Ain-i-Akbari, written by Abul Fazl, records millets and their cultivating regions. 

Reduction in Millets Use:

  • In the Indian subcontinent, millets were used as staple in most households prior to the Green Revolution.
  • Use of Millets reduced significantly over the years due to a multitude of factors such as,
  • Due to socioeconomic factors brought on by the crop’s hardiness, they were reduced to being the staple food of the underprivileged.
  • With the growing support for wheat and rice and easy availability, people moved to them due to a desire for upward mobility. 
  • Kotki Hatao Soyabean Lagao (Remove Kodo and Little millet and grow Soybean) was a famous slogan in unified Madhya Pradesh until the early 2000s directed towards millet farmers and encouraging them to move towards oilseeds. 
  • All of these factors led to the steady decline of millets from our diverse food plates.

Renewed Interest for Millets:

  • Since Covid Pandemic, there has been a resurgence in interest in eating healthily, and millets are becoming more and more popular. There has been an increase in discussion and interest in millets during the past two years.
  • The Prime Minister of India recently stressed the importance of making millet a future food option due to its health benefits, climate resilience, and potential for food security.
  • Despite this, there is a significant need to work on awareness and consumption of millets as myths and misconceptions about millets still continue to be widespread. 
  • A study assessing Millets and Sorghum Consumption Behaviour in Urban India in 2021′ found that the major reason the respondents did not eat more millets was that it was not eaten at home (40%), followed by reactions such as not liking the taste (22%).
  • In rural India, the challenge continues to be the socio-economic view on consuming millets which discourages widespread consumption.
  • The incidence of gluten intolerance and celiac disease (CD) is on the rise in the European and American markets. 
  • Millets being naturally gluten- free and nutritious are a perfect alternative and the availability of millets on the shelves is slowly increasing. 
  • To increase demand and make them a regular food option mission mode campaigning is required which not only encourages people to move towards millets but also counters the myths and misconceptions as well as demystifies their cooking.

Production & Processing of millets:

  • Presently the production is limited because millets are being grown only in certain pockets. In addition to this, the processing facilities are also limited and largely present in the southern part of the country.
  • While major millets like Finger millet, Pearl millet and Sorghum are still easily available due to the ease of post-harvest processing, minor millets like Foxtail millet and Little millet need to be de-hulled before consumption. 
  • The prices of these millets become higher due to logistical and transportation issues to the rest of the country. Due to these factors, the supply of millets, especially the minor millets is erratic thereby discouraging further value addition and consumption.
  • To address this, production as well as processing needs to be supported and encouraged in different states to uniformly increase supplies to match the demands and also keep a check on the prices. 
  • Unless the cost of production and processing can be brought down, it will be difficult to increase the mass consumption of millets.



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Courtesy: Yojana