While awareness about millets has increased coupled with various government initiatives to promote their consumption, the production of millets has largely remained stagnant over the last 15 years. The production has remained below 200 lakh tonnes for many years now.
The year 2023 is declared the ‘International Year of Millets’ by the UN, following India’s proposal. India has earlier observed the year 2018 as the ‘National Year of Millets’. The declarations are aimed at spreading awareness on the contribution of millets to food security and nutrition and also scaling up the sustainable production and quality of millets. In the previous story, we saw what millets are, their nutritional, ecological, and economic benefits, and their potential to address various global issues. Some of the measures of national and state governments to promote the same were also discussed.
In this story, we see if there has been any change in the production of millets, especially in recent years, as there has been a shift in the global discourse towards millets. We also compare the production of millets with that of other major foodgrains such as rice, wheat, and maize.
India produces almost 40% of the World’s millets
India is the largest producer and second largest exporter of millets in the world. According to the data from the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, as of February 2023, India produced 39% of the millets worldwide for the year 2022. India produced about 120 lakh tonnes of millets of the total 304.8 lakh tonnes produced globally in 2022. After India, Niger is the second highest producer accounting for about 11% followed by China accounting for 9%. The 3 countries together were responsible for almost half of the millets produced globally. The top 10 millet-producing countries contributed to 89% of the millets produced. Except for India and China, the remaining 8 countries are in Africa.
While production of maize has doubled, there has been no notable improvement in the production of nutricereals
Food grains include cereals and pulses. Apart from rice, wheat, and millets (also known as Nutri cereals), some major foodgrains cultivated in India are maize, barley, and pulses. Maize, barley, and millets are together referred to as Nutri & Coarse Cereals. Cereals include rice, wheat, and these nutria & coarse cereals while pulses include tur, urad, gram, and lentils.
Production data for 15 years (since 2008-09) from the Directorate of Economics & Statistics under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is considered for this analysis. The data for 2022-23 is based on second advanced estimates of production for 2022-23.
The data reveals that the production of rice has gone up by 30% between 2008-09 and 2021-22. In 2022-23, it is estimated to cross 1308 lakh tonnes or 1.3 billion tonnes. During this period, the production of wheat has also increased by almost 34%. The production of maize has doubled since 2009-10. Rice, wheat, and maize together made up around 85% of the food grains produced in the country.
The production of pulses increased by 87% since 2008-09 while the output with respect to barley has been stagnant throughout the period. Likewise, there has not been any notable improvement in the production of Nutri cereals in this period.
Despite interventions, production of millets is estimated to drop further in 2022-23
In the 15 years between 2008-09 and 2022-23 (including the estimates for 2022-23), the average production of Nutri cereals has been 167 lakh tonnes per year. The production was more than 200 lakh tonnes in 2010-11 and dropped to 137.1 tonnes in 2018-19. However, since 2018-19, the production improved in the subsequent two years and dropped again in 2021-22 and is estimated to drop further, though marginally, in 2022-23. This drop in output is despite support to promote products such as increased MSP and implementation of Sub Mission on Nutri-Cereals (Millets) under National Food Security Mission (NFSM) alongside other initiatives.
The share of Nutri cereals produced as against the total foodgrains produced in India has dropped over the years. Nutri cereals comprised 8% of foodgrain production in the country in 2010-11 which has now dropped to 5%.
Production of Jowar has dropped significantly over the years
Jowar, Bajra, Ragi, and other small millets have been categorized as Nutri cereals. The trend in the production of these millets is as follows:
- Bajra: Among the Nutri cereals, production of Bajra is the highest. It is the fourth most-produced cereal after rice, wheat & maize, and constituted 50-60% of the Nutri cereals produced since 2010-11. Unlike other Nutri cereals, there has been a relative improvement in output only in the case of Bajra, in the last decade, though the production numbers are not consistent.
- Jowar: The production of Jowar dropped from 72.5 lakh tonnes in 2008-09 to less than half in 2018-19. Though the output recovered in the following year, it has been declining ever since.
- Ragi: The average production of Ragi is about 18 lakh tonnes during the period considered. The production dropped to the lowest in the 15 years in 2018-19, like in the case of Jowar and recovered in the subsequent year. However, 2021-22 and the estimates for 2022-23 show a lower output than in 2019-20.
- Small millets: Production of small millets have revolved at an average production of 4 lakh tonnes in this period.
7 states account for 89% of the millet production in India
According to a written reply in the Lok Sabha in February 2023, the average production of millets in the three years between 2019-20 to 2021-22 was around 170 lakh tonnes. In terms of average millet production, Rajasthan was the highest producer with nearly 49 lakh tonnes produced annually followed by Maharashtra and Karnataka with around 24 lakh tonnes. Uttar Pradesh with an average of 22.3 lakh tonnes was the fourth highest producer. Together, these four states alone accounted for almost 70% of the millet production.
Including Haryana, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh which also recorded an annual average production of more than ten lakhs (million) tonnes each, the seven states were responsible for 89% of the millet production in India. States such as Odisha, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra are implementing their own State Millet Missions to boost production and consumption.
Demand creation through considering people’s needs may help promote millets in India
Despite the global efforts to shift to ‘superfood millets’ led by India, there has been no significant improvement in the production of millets in the country as revealed by data. The scale of production of millets is much lower than that of staples of rice and wheat. Though various policy measures have been taken to spread awareness and enhance production and encourage startups, it is time to also focus on demand creation. Though millets were ancient staple foods, rice and wheat substituted them because of easier availability. Thus, marketing value-added products with low cooking time, improved processing and storage, and availability at affordable prices are key to increasing the consumption of millets.
Featured Image: Production of Millets