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Decoding Impact

Decoding Millets with Sivakumar S

Fri Jun 30 2023
MilletsClimate CrisisHealth BenefitsEconomic BenefitsBarriers to ConsumptionPromotion ChallengesSustainable Value ChainBalancing Nutrition and ProfitKey Takeaways
  1. Millets and the Climate Crisis
  2. Health Benefits of Millets
  3. Economic Benefits of Millets
  4. Barriers to Millet Consumption
  5. Promoting Millets and Overcoming Challenges
  6. Creating a Sustainable Millet Value Chain
  7. Balancing Nutrition and Profit
  8. Key Takeaways and Recommendations

Millets have the potential to address the climate crisis, economic crisis, and nutritional crisis in India. They are a great source of micronutrients, protein, and fiber. Millets can help conserve natural resources like water and topsoil while addressing climate change. However, there are barriers to millet consumption such as taste, look and feel, cooking time and effort, and price. Promoting millets requires addressing these challenges through recipe-based promotions, research on cultivars, and decentralized infrastructure. Creating a sustainable millet value chain involves directing value to farmers, measuring environmental and societal benefits, and establishing market approaches that consider farmer benefits. Balancing nutrition and profit is important, with government programs supporting domestic consumption and international awareness building. Key takeaways include the need for integrated interventions, philanthropy's role in capacity building, and government facilitation of natural resource and carbon markets.

Millets and the Climate Crisis

00:05 - 16:19

  • Millets have the potential to address the climate crisis, economic crisis, and nutritional crisis in India.
  • Millets can help conserve natural resources like water and topsoil while addressing climate change.
  • India has witnessed extreme weather events due to climate change.
  • Extreme weather events are occurring in 90% of the country on most days.
  • Three out of four districts in India are hotspots for extreme events.
  • Climate change has caused traditionally flood-prone areas to experience intense droughts and vice versa.

Health Benefits of Millets

00:05 - 08:34

  • Millets are a great source of micronutrients and important for overall health and well-being.
  • Millets are also a good source of protein and fiber.
  • Millets contain various micronutrients such as iron, magnesium, calcium, jynk, potassium, phosphorus which contribute to different aspects of health.
  • Millets are low in glycemic index and natural antioxidants help eliminate harmful free radicals from the body.

Economic Benefits of Millets

08:07 - 23:52

  • Mr. Sivakumar, group head of Agree and IT businesses at ITC Limited, discusses how millets can unlock a model of production that benefits consumers, farmers, and businesses.
  • The millet market is yet to develop a sustainable regard to gain popularity among Indian consumers.
  • Agriculture consumes 90% of India's water table, making it crucial for long-term resilience.
  • India ranks poorly in terms of food and nutrition globally.
  • 47-51% of Indians rely on agriculture for their income.
  • Growing millets can increase farmers' income, especially in regions with limited water resources like Punjab and Haryana.
  • Millets are primarily grown by smaller farmers in rain-fed regions like Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Despite health benefits and resource conservation potential, millet farming remains mostly subsistence-based rather than commercialized.

Barriers to Millet Consumption

15:49 - 31:45

  • The actual consumption of millets is small due to barriers such as taste, look and feel, cooking time and effort, and price.
  • Shelf life is an issue for millet flour due to its high lipid profile.
  • Machine efficiency for dehulling millets is low, impacting economics.
  • The right kind of millet with consumer attributes is needed for increased consumption.
  • Price support has helped increase the medium support price (MSP) for millets.
  • Cost reduction in production is limited, so yield improvement and quality control are important for farmers.
  • Near-farm value addition can help customize processing activities like drying and dehulling to specific types of millets grown by groups of farmers.

Promoting Millets and Overcoming Challenges

23:27 - 39:29

  • There are over 150 varieties of millets which complicate the challenge of promoting them.
  • Certain major millets like bajra and ragi have reasonable popularity and can be scaled up
  • Different millets can be positioned based on their properties to create demand from consumers
  • Government programs can drive millet consumption for nutrition and stunting prevention
  • Farmers growing millets themselves need to be incentivized to retain nourishment in rain-fed areas
  • Market segmentation is important for value, volume, and regional economic thriving
  • Cultivating taste for millets requires gradual adoption through recipes and product development
  • R&D work is needed for optimal dehaling, drying, shelf life enhancement, and yield improvement
  • R&D funds should focus on optimizing dehaling and drying processes to enhance shelf life and improve yield.
  • Startups, national institutions, and companies are working on processing millets.
  • Research is needed to develop attribute-specific cultivars for targeted nutritional needs.
  • Decentralized infrastructure closer to farms is necessary for efficient post-harvest processing.
  • Farmer producer organizations (FPOs) can play a critical role in establishing decentralized infrastructure.
  • FPOs investing in near-farm processing would be more viable than government investments.
  • Right-sized machines at the FPO level can enable immediate post-harvest processing and value addition.
  • Challenges include changing consumer behavior through recipe-based promotions and segmenting markets effectively.
  • Additional income for farmers can be generated through carbon and natural resource offset markets.

Creating a Sustainable Millet Value Chain

39:00 - 46:58

  • Creating a value and directing it to farmers can improve farming viability without burdening consumers.
  • An accounting model is needed to measure the benefits of millets for the environment and society.
  • Learnings from the Green Revolution should be considered when changing farmer behavior.
  • The government played a lead role in ensuring a comprehensive solution for food self-sufficiency during the Green Revolution.
  • A demand-responsive approach is necessary for the millet value chain.
  • Collaboration among different organizations is important to create a micro-level ecosystem.
  • ITC has launched ITC Mission Millets, leveraging its diverse business capabilities.
  • Designing for finite natural resources and establishing incentives and accountability are crucial.
  • Orchestrating demand across multiple industries is important for sustainability.
  • Establishing market approaches that consider farmer benefits is essential.

Balancing Nutrition and Profit

46:45 - 54:52

  • The green revolution led to producers focusing on market-based approaches, resulting in adverse impacts on their own family's nutrition levels.
  • There is a need to ensure that producers are also consumers of products, especially millets.
  • Industry sentiment towards millets is cautiously optimistic, with a lot of innovation happening in the market.
  • Balancing retention for consumption and selling for profit is important to address nutrition challenges.
  • Government programs like Mother and Jail Program and Midday Meal supplement the efforts of retaining produce for domestic consumption.
  • Awareness about the benefits of consuming millets is being built internationally, creating a tailwind for the industry.
  • The PLI scheme supports the injection of millets into various products for both domestic and export markets.
  • Establishing the right infrastructure and programming has been successful in promoting millets, with notable cases like the Millets Mission in many states.
  • The Amul model, which prioritizes market linkages, can be emulated in promoting millets as well.

Key Takeaways and Recommendations

54:22 - 1:01:53

  • Market first and integrated intervention are key takeaways for the success of projects.
  • Creating demand is not enough, it requires an integrated approach.
  • Philanthropy can contribute to capacity building and self-governance in the value chain.
  • The government's role is to facilitate and create a framework for natural resource and carbon markets.
  • Designing for diversification and scaling millets can bring significant benefits to farmers.
  • The conversation was insightful and covered various interesting topics.