How India Became the Largest Exporter of Millets in the World
Millet is a cereal crop that belongs to the grass family and is widely cultivated in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Millet is rich in protein, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants, and has many health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Millet is also drought-resistant, pest-resistant, and can grow in poor soils, making it a sustainable and climate-smart crop.
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In this article, we will explore how India became the largest exporter of millets in the world, surpassing countries like the United States, Russia, and Ukraine. We will also look at the factors that contributed to India’s success in the global millet market, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
India’s Millet Export Performance
According to the World Bank data, India exported cereals; millet worth USD 28.49 million in 2019, which was 6.11% of the global exports of millets. India’s millet exports increased by 18.85% from 2015 to 2019, while the global exports of millets decreased by 8.64% in the same period. India’s main export destinations for millets are Nepal, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, and Saudi Arabia.
In 2020, India’s millet exports reached a new high of USD 50 million, registering a growth of 75% over the previous year. This was mainly due to the increased demand for millets from countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and European Union, where millets are consumed as a healthy alternative to rice and wheat. India also benefited from the government’s initiatives to promote millets as a nutri-cereal and to support farmers with minimum support prices, procurement schemes, and subsidies.
In 2021-22 (April-December), India’s millet exports further increased by 40% to USD 70 million, as compared to the same period in the previous year. India is expected to export millets worth USD 100 million by the end of the fiscal year, making it the largest exporter of millets in the world.
Factors Behind India’s Success in Millet Exports
There are several factors that have contributed to India’s success in millet exports. Some of them are:
- Diversity of Millet Varieties: India is home to a wide range of millet varieties such as pearl millet (bajra), finger millet (ragi), foxtail millet (kangni), proso millet (barri), kodo millet (kodon), barnyard millet (sanwa), little millet (kutki), and sorghum (jowar). These varieties have different nutritional profiles, tastes, textures, and cooking methods, catering to the diverse preferences of consumers across the world.
- Quality and Safety Standards: India has adopted stringent quality and safety standards for millet exports, such as ensuring proper cleaning, grading, packaging, labeling, and certification of the products. India has also established laboratories and testing facilities to monitor the quality and safety parameters of millets such as moisture content, foreign matter, aflatoxin levels, pesticide residues, etc.
- Marketing and Branding Strategies: India has adopted effective marketing and branding strategies to promote millets as a nutri-cereal that can address various health issues such as diabetes, obesity, anemia, etc. India has also participated in various international trade fairs and exhibitions to showcase its millet products and attract buyers from different countries. India has also launched a dedicated website to provide information on millet varieties, products, exporters, recipes, etc.
- Government Support: The government of India has provided various incentives and support measures to boost millet exports. Some of them are:
- Declaring 2018 as the National Year of Millets and 2023 as the International Year of Millets
- Launching a National Mission on Nutri-Cereals to increase production and consumption of millets
- Providing minimum support prices for various millet crops to ensure remunerative prices for farmers
- Procuring millets under various schemes such as Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), etc.
- Subsidizing transportation costs for exporting millets under various schemes such as Transport Assistance Scheme (TAS), Market Access Initiative (MAI), etc.
- Providing financial assistance for setting up processing units for value addition of millets under various schemes such as Agri Export Policy (AEP), Agri Infrastructure Fund (AIF), etc.
- Creating awareness among consumers about the benefits of millets through various campaigns such as Eat Right India Movement (ERIM), Poshan Abhiyan, etc.
Challenges and Opportunities for India’s Millet Exports
Despite the impressive performance of India’s millet exports, there are still some challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed. Some of them are:
- Competition from Other Countries: India faces competition from other countries such as the United States, Russia, Ukraine, France, Poland, and Argentina, which are also major exporters of millets. These countries have advantages such as higher productivity, lower production costs, better infrastructure, and more access to markets. India needs to improve its competitiveness by enhancing its productivity, reducing its production costs, improving its infrastructure, and expanding its market access.
- Demand-Supply Gap: India has a huge domestic demand for millets, which exceeds its supply. India consumes about 90% of its millet production, leaving only 10% for exports. India needs to increase its supply of millets by increasing its area under cultivation, improving its yield, and reducing its post-harvest losses. India also needs to diversify its export basket by adding more value-added products such as millet flour, flakes, puffs, snacks, beverages, etc.
- Consumer Awareness and Preference: India needs to create more awareness and preference among consumers in the international markets about the benefits of millets. India needs to highlight the unique features of its millet varieties such as their nutritional value, taste, texture, color, etc. India also needs to educate consumers about the proper cooking methods and recipes for millets. India also needs to leverage the growing trends of organic, gluten-free, vegan, and keto-friendly foods to market its millet products.
- Policy and Regulatory Issues: India needs to address some policy and regulatory issues that affect its millet exports. Some of them are:
- Harmonizing the standards and specifications of millets with the international norms and requirements
- Streamlining the procedures and documentation for exporting millets
- Resolving the trade barriers and disputes with some countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, etc.
- Developing bilateral and multilateral trade agreements with potential markets such as European Union, Australia, etc.
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India has emerged as the largest exporter of millets in the world, thanks to its diversity of millet varieties, quality and safety standards, marketing and branding strategies, and government support. India has also tapped into the growing demand for millets from countries that are looking for healthy alternatives to rice and wheat. However, India also faces some challenges such as competition from other countries, demand-supply gap, consumer awareness and preference, and policy and regulatory issues. India needs to overcome these challenges and seize the opportunities to further enhance its millet exports and become a global leader in the nutri-cereal sector.
Millet Market: A Growing Industry with Global Demand
Millet is a group of small-seeded grasses that are widely cultivated as cereal crops or fodder for animals. Millet is rich in protein, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants, and has various health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Millet is also gluten-free and drought-tolerant, making it a suitable crop for arid and semi-arid regions.
Millet is consumed as food in various forms, such as porridge, bread, cakes, snacks, beverages, and beer. Millet is also used as animal feed, especially for poultry, cattle, sheep, and goats. Millet is also a source of biofuel, as it can be fermented to produce ethanol.
According to Mordor Intelligence, the global millet market was valued at USD 9.8 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.5% during the forecast period (2021-2026). The major factors driving the growth of the millet market are the increasing demand for healthy and gluten-free foods, the rising popularity of ethnic cuisines, the growing awareness of millet’s nutritional and environmental benefits, and the government support for millet production and consumption.
Top Exporters of Millet in the World
According to the World Bank, the top exporters of millet in the world in 2019 were:
- United States: USD 58.7 million
- India: USD 28.5 million
- Ukraine: USD 15.3 million
- France: USD 12.7 million
- Russia: USD 11.7 million
Together, these five countries accounted for more than 70% of the global millet exports in 2019. The main destinations for millet exports were China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.
According to Tridge, the top export flow of millet in 2022 was from Uzbekistan to Pakistan, with an export value of USD 6.62 million. Uzbekistan was also the third-largest exporter of millet in 2020, after India and the United States.
Trends and Opportunities in the Millet Market
The millet market is expected to witness significant growth in the coming years, as more consumers are looking for healthy, gluten-free, and environmentally friendly foods. Millet is also gaining popularity among ethnic food lovers, as it is a staple ingredient in many African, Asian, and European cuisines.
Some of the trends and opportunities in the millet market are:
- Increasing demand for organic and fair-trade millet: Consumers are becoming more conscious of the social and environmental impacts of their food choices and are willing to pay a premium for organic and fair-trade products. Organic and fair-trade millet can offer higher quality, safety, traceability, and sustainability to both producers and consumers.
- Developing new products and applications with millet: Millet can be used to create innovative products and applications that cater to different consumer preferences and needs. For example, millet can be used to make gluten-free pasta, noodles, breads, cakes, cookies, crackers, bars, granola, cereals, flours, starches, syrups, malt extracts, beverages, and beer. Millet can also be used to make animal feed, biofuel, biodegradable packaging materials, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
- Promoting millet consumption through awareness campaigns and policy support: Millet consumption can be increased by raising awareness of its nutritional and environmental benefits among consumers, farmers, processors, retailers, food service operators, and policymakers. Millet consumption can also be supported by providing subsidies, incentives, infrastructure development, research and development funding, quality standards certification,
and market access facilitation to the millet value chain actors.
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