What are millets, the grains on PM Narendra Modi’s lunch menu?

Source: The post is based on the article What are millets, the grains on PM Narendra Modi’s lunch menu? published in Indian Express on 22nd December 2022

What is the News?

2023 has been declared as the “International Year of Millets” by the United Nations after a proposal from India in 2019. To raise awareness on millets and prepare for 2023, the Indian Prime Minister along with fellow parliamentarians enjoyed a lunch where millets were served.

What are millets, India’s indigenous foodgrains?

The term millet is used to describe small-grained cereals like sorghum (jowar), bajra, little millet (kutki), finger millet (ragi), proso millet (cheena), barnyard millet (sawa) and brown top millet (korale).

Millets were among the first crops to be domesticated. There is evidence for the consumption of millets in the Indus-Saraswati civilisation (3,300 to 1300 BCE). Several varieties that are now grown around the world were first cultivated in India. 

Millets are now grown in more than 130 countries and are the traditional food for more than half a billion people in Asia and Africa. Globally, sorghum (jowar) is the biggest millet crop.

Where are millets produced in India?

In India, millets are mainly a Kharif crop. During 2018-19, three millet crops — bajra (3.67%), jowar (2.13%), and ragi (0.48%) — accounted for about 7% of the gross cropped area in the country.

Jowar: It is mainly grown in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, and Madhya Pradesh. Maharashtra accounted for the largest area) and production of jowar during 2020-21.

Bajra: It is mainly grown in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.Rajasthan produced the most bajra in the country in 2020-21.

What are the benefits of Millets?

Eco-Friendly: Millets are eco-friendly crops – they require much less water than rice and wheat, and can be grown in rainfed areas without additional irrigation.  

– According to a 2019 study, wheat and rice have the lowest green water footprints but the highest blue water footprints, while millets were exactly the opposite.

– Green water footprint refers to water from precipitation whereas blue water refers to water from land sources. Thus, millets require the least amount of irrigation to be grown.

Highly Nutritious: Millets contain higher protein, fat and fibre content. In 2018, the Agriculture Ministry declared certain varieties of millet as “Nutri Cereals” for the purposes of production, consumption, and trade.

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