Indian Chamber of Commerce

Kolkata, 6th September 2023: The Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) organised a conference on millets & PMFME scheme on Tuesday, September 5, 2023, at Raajkutir. The conference focused on the popularisation, promotion and benefits of millets and various schemes of the government of India like PMFME that will support small units or large groups to produce processed millet products. The conference The event was graced by eminent dignitaries including Smt. Anita Praveen, I.A.S., Union Secretary, Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Government of India, Dr. Subrata Gupta, I.A.S., Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Food Processing Industries and Horticulture, Government of West Bengal, Prof. Swapan Datta, Former Deputy Director General (Crop Science) ICAR & Ex-Vice Chancellor, Visva-Bharati University, and Dr. Rajeev Singh, Director General, Indian Chamber of Commerce.

While delivering the welcome address, Dr. Rajeev Singh, Director General, Indian Chamber of Commerce, said, “Over the past few decades, millets in India have carried a distinct brand image, although many decades ago, they were an integral part of our dietary habits and culture. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a unique approach to rebranding and positioning millets, recognizing their multifaceted benefits. They not only contribute to dietary balance but also play a crucial role in conserving water resources while enhancing the nutritional content of our meals. According to the Prime Minister, this is a global movement and a vital step forward due to millets’ ease of cultivation, resilience to climate challenges, and overall adaptability. Millets have gained recognition from organisations such as the FAO and the UNGA. The Central Ministry of Food Processing Industry is actively hosting Millet Utsav events across 20 states and 30 districts in the country. These events aim to raise awareness about the nutritional advantages of millets, explore their value addition potential, promote consumption, and highlight their export possibilities. The Prime Minister Formalization of Micro Food Processing Enterprises (PMFME) initiative is geared towards enhancing the competitiveness of individuals and micro-enterprises within the unorganised food processing sector. It also lends support to the burgeoning millet industry. The millet industry presents promising prospects, and with government backing, millet entrepreneurs can reap substantial benefits. Through the PMFME scheme, millet start-ups are poised to expand their businesses by ensuring a smooth supply of raw materials and the production of finished products for the market. This sector offers numerous opportunities for businesses, driven by the health and environmental advantages that millets offer. With government support, this sector is witnessing a growing demand, as consumers increasingly embrace millets as a sustainable food option, contributing to the rapid expansion of awareness and acceptance.”

While delivering her address Smt. Anita Praveen, I.A.S., Union Secretary, Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Government of India, said, “In 2015, India made a significant declaration, designating the 21st of June as International Yoga Day. While yoga had been a common practice in our country, it had somewhat fallen into the background as we gave prominence to gyms and aerobics. Yoga was put on the back burner, and interestingly, it was embraced and mastered by individuals from the Western world. If you open YouTube today, you’ll find that there are more Western practitioners showcasing their yoga skills than Indians. It’s a source of pride that our tradition has been adopted globally. Now, millets seem to be following a similar path. This appears to be the next cultural export from India that we are endeavouring to popularise internationally. Not only have we designated this year as the International Year of Millets, but we are also working towards making it so popular and vital that both the Indian subcontinent and the African nations, major millet producers, have reason to celebrate. Millets are a part of the superfood category, genetically suitable for our health and diet. One challenge with millets is their tendency to become rancid quickly, especially when processed into flour (Ata). However, if they are processed further into products like cookies, noodles, or macaroni, they become stable and more accessible. Therefore, our focus is on processing millets. We are witnessing a revolution in processed foods, with many processed items becoming household staples. It’s essential not only to promote processed unhealthy foods but also healthy processed options. Under our ministry, we have three schemes: Kisan SAMPADA Yojana, Formalisation of Micro Enterprises (FME), and Production Linked Incentive (PLI). These schemes are being utilised to promote millets. Through PLI, we have introduced a special scheme for millets, which has already garnered the participation of 30 companies. Initially, we allocated Rs. 800 crore to this scheme, doubting its success, but it has proven to be remarkably successful and fully subscribed. We are now in the final stages of paperwork for another round of PLI for millet products. We encourage you to stay updated through our website to take advantage of this scheme when it launches. In PMFME, our focus is on small stalls, but as a group, you can undertake significant projects. PLI offers opportunities for large-scale production. The government of West Bengal has decided to promote PMFME, a decision we wholeheartedly support. This will greatly benefit processed food producers in the region, not limited to millets but encompassing other processed products as well.”

While delivering the keynote address Prof. Swapan Datta, Former Deputy Director General (Crop Science) ICAR & Ex-Vice Chancellor, Visva-Bharati University, said, “Millets are poised to make a significant impact not only on a global scale but also within India. Recognised for their exceptional nutritional value and their ability to thrive in diverse climates with minimal water requirements, millets have garnered substantial international attention and collaboration with India. During my tenure as DDG of ICAR, I observed substantial international engagement in millet research. Several minor millets exhibit genomic structures and gene sequencing related to crucial aspects such as nutrition, drought tolerance, and climate resilience. In India, a staggering 38% of the population, including women and children, suffer from malnutrition-related diseases. Millets, some rich in calcium and iron, possess abundant mineral content, yet they are underutilised. Efforts to popularize millets have been challenging, but recent initiatives, including workshops and conferences, have been encouraging. Projections suggest that the millet market could reach $11 billion, though it currently pales in comparison to the $200 billion rice and wheat markets. Despite global rice production at 70 to 80 million metric tons, millets, with 30 million metric tons, offer superior nutritional benefits. They can combat malnutrition, thrive in drought and climate change scenarios, and withstand adverse conditions. India contributes significantly, producing 30% to 40% of the global millet output. Traditionally labeled as a “poor man’s crop,” millets are affordable but have been underutilised. Fortunately, new processing techniques have made millets more accessible for consumption. If even a small percentage of our population adopts millets, it will stimulate demand, encouraging farmers to increase millet production. This, in turn, will enhance the economic well-being of farmers. Prime Minister Modi has championed millets as a people’s movement and aims to establish India as the global hub for millet production, centered in Hyderabad. Approximately Rs. 250 crores will be allocated to this hub, where individuals can witness the technology and techniques employed in processing millet products.”

While delivering a special address, Dr. Subrata Gupta, I.A.S., Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Food Processing Industries and Horticulture, Government of West Bengal, said, “Bengalis have a deep appreciation for food and are known for their culinary experimentation. The strength of Bengal lies in its willingness to explore various cuisines from different regions. Just a few decades ago, capsicum was an unfamiliar vegetable in Bengal, primarily sourced from states like Maharashtra and considered relatively expensive. However, it has now become an integral part of Bengali dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The cultivation of capsicum has also expanded in Bengal, and we actively support this endeavour. It took time for capsicum to find its place in Bengali cuisine. Similarly, vegetables like mushrooms and baby corn have gradually gained acceptance in our culinary repertoire, despite not being traditional ingredients. This change can be attributed to increased outreach efforts and champions advocating for these vegetables. If we intend to popularize millets, we must follow a similar approach by increasing outreach and introducing millet-based dishes that resonate with people from different backgrounds. For instance, during Durga Puja, we can showcase millet-based food products in various pandals, reaching a large audience with minimal expenses. Durga Puja offers a unique opportunity for marketing, making it an ideal time to create awareness. Millet offers numerous health benefits as it is gluten-free and suitable for individuals with diabetes. It is a natural source of essential minerals and vitamins. Millets are easy to cultivate, requiring minimal nutrients and sunlight, making them a hardy crop that consumes little water. To promote millets effectively, we need champions who can advocate for millets across different platforms, highlighting their benefits and introducing a variety of processed millet products to the market. To encourage millet consumption among higher-income groups, we need to develop products like cookies and buttermilk that cater to their taste preferences. Processing millets is crucial to enhance their acceptability. The government is committed to supporting processed millet producers, fostering a beneficial partnership between the PMFME initiative and small-scale millet processing units. Generating awareness about millet supply, processing, and consumption is essential for its widespread adoption.”