Promoting the Integration of Millets in G20 Nations


Millets are a group of small-seeded grasses that have been cultivated for thousands of years in various parts of the world as cereal crops. These climate- resilient crops are high in dietary fibre and serve as a good source of proteins, phytochemicals and micronutrients. Millets were among the first crops to be domesticated and remained a staple crop for millions in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite their health benefits, the area under millet production and their inclusion in diets is significantly declining  among consumers due to a lack of awareness. However, based on the recommendation of India , the UN’s mandate to celebrate 2023 as the International Year of Millets has redirected the world’s attention towards millets and their potential  in addressing global challenges. The initial sections of the paper analyze  the factors that contribute to an increase in millet’s trade, the existing  challenges of low productivity, a lack of  quality seeds, millet processing  and the policy initiatives taken by India to integrate millet into mainstream consumption. During the presidency of the G20 Summit, India has proposed various initiatives such as MAHARISHI and MIIRA, which are further aimed at mainstreaming millets through research collaborations. The paper ends with suggestions for the G20 countries on how to raise consumer demand and address supply- side challenges.


In the contemporary era, the global economy is confronted with three major challenges of depleting resources, repercussions of the pandemic and a rising population. According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023, approximately 2.4 billion individuals did not have consistent access to nutritious and sufficient food in 2022. The rise in urbanisation has led to an increase in the consumption of processed foods, resulting in a surge in obesity cases across both urban and rural areas. Amidst these issues, climate-resistant millets have emerged with the potential to ensure global food security. Millets encompass a varied group of small-grained and dryland cereals, characterised by high nutritional value. These include pearl, proso, foxtail, barnyard, little, kodo, browntop, finger and sorghum. These crops have been rooted in ancient cultures and are primarily grown in Africa and Asia. 

In the year 2021, India’s proposal for declaring the year 2023 as “ International Year of Millets’’ was supported by 72 countries and approved by the United Nation’s General Assembly. With the alignment of celebrating the International Year of Millets (IYOM) and the presidency of the G20 summit, various initiatives are being undertaken by India to promote the sustainable production of millets among G20 nations in order to alleviate the problem of food security, reduce health risks and advance the attainment  of Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Global Production of Millets

The production of millets varies widely among countries depending upon the quality of soil, agricultural practices and the climatic conditions. Millets require warm temperatures ranging from 20-30 degrees celsius for seed germination and are highly adaptable to a variety of soil conditions . Alluvial, sandy and loamy soils are ideal soils for millet cultivation. India is the largest producer of millets in the world. In the global production of millets, India’s production of Bajra accounted for  40.51% and Sorghum’s production was 8.09%  in 2020. 

According to data from the US  Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, as of August 2023, India, Niger, China, Nigeria and Mali  are top five producers of the millet in the world. The top 3 producing countries account for 89% of the world production and except India and China, the rest of the top 10 millet producing countries are in Africa. The top 10 millet importing countries including —China, Japan, Ethiopia, Mexico, Nigeria, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom draws 77% of the total world imports of millets. The global millet market is divided into breakfast foods (32.1% market share), followed by bakery food and beverages (16.9% ), fodder (14%), infant foods (11.1%) and others (9.0%).Among the G20 nations, millets are produced in India, China, Russia, United States, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Brazil and Turkey. 

In India,  major foodgrains cultivated include rice, wheat , maize, barley and pulses. Between 2008-09 and 2021-22, the data reveals a 30% increase in the production of rice and a 34% rise in the production of wheat. Since 2008-09, the production of pulses has  increased by 87%. The millets’ production, which stood at 200 lakh tonnes in 2010-11, witnessed a decline to 137.1 tonnes in 2018-19. The production improved in the following two years due to various initiatives such as an increased Minimum Support Price, implementation of Sub Mission on millets etc. However, despite the various interventions, the data reveals that the scale of production of millets is still lower than that of rice and wheat. As per the third advance estimates of major crops production(2022-23), the estimated production of rice (1355.42 lakh metric tonnes) and wheat  (1127.43 lakh metric tonnes)  is more than the production of millets(547.48lakh tonnes). The consumption of millets is growing at a 1% decadal CAGR from 16.1 million tonne in 2012 to 17.8 million tonne in FY2022. 

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Amisha Bhalla