Teaching millet as a healthy alternative to the daily diet is the way forward

Widening the consumption of millet  as a healthy alternative to  daily diet and adding value  in the form of ready-to-eat (RTE) or ready-to-cook (RTC)  are some of the ways to brand millet for the mass market,  speakers said. on Friday at a panel discussion on ‘Adding value and branding Mills’ organized by Nabard and millet enclave business.  “The adoption of millets is  mainly based on three factors: health, convenience and sustainability,” said Rishika Reddy, Managing Director of Millets Marvels, adding that it is important to focus on the three factors to make millets more attractive to  consumers. 

 Available on roads 

 Reddy said that Millets Marvels Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) are located at airports to make millets ordinary. “When you fly, you only have  options like RTE upma or cup noodles. Why not have a million as a base for everyone?” he asked, adding that Millets Marvels is  developing healthy meals that are available on the go. VIKASA, Managing Director of Andhra S Kiran said that promotion of millets in the RTE category alone will not help in the introduction of millets. “Millet should become part of our normal food system, as a substitute for rice or wheat.” Kiran also said that there is a  gap in quality between farm gate and industry standards. 

 “It is estimated that almost 20 percent of the millets have internal material such as stones, pebbles or dry matter moisture content, which causes deterioration in the quality of the millets”, said Kiran. He added that farmers’ producer organizations can play an important role in correcting quality differences. Raju Bhupati, founder and CEO of TrooGood, said the three Q factors of aspiration, quality and quantity are the three key factors needed to drive growth in the millet business. “Quantity is an important factor. If there’s no demand (for millet), it’s not going to get you anywhere, no matter how much you advertise.” TrooGood is the largest millet company in India and has processed 4 million kilos of millet so far. The company produces 2.5 million mili-based chikkis (a jaggery-based sweet) in five factories. The real challenge, he says, is  to offer a  lot of food for ₹5, a food segment  dominated by big FMCG players. 

 Natural adapters 

 Ashutosh Deshpande, head of value chain at Reliance Foundation, said the non-profit organization has been working with farmers in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandla district in collaboration with Nabard and GIC to help farmers adopt climate-smart farming practices. “We promoted millets because they are natural climate adaptors”. Deshpande noted that marginal millet cultivation in Mandla declined from 40,000 hectares in 2008-09 to 13,000 hectares in 2018-19 as farmers switched to paddy and maize. “So we have created an integrated model that works from  seed  to plate and we are making interventions along the entire chain to improve farmers’ incomes”.  He also said animal feed could be a huge market for millet, which is currently dominated by corn and soybeans. 

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