ITC: Making millets mainstream

The UN has designated 2023 as the Year of the Millets. ITC will be developing and launching a series of products made from millets as a part of its Mission Millets initiative that was announced recently.

28 Jan 2023 | By Pooja Mahesh

Aashirvaad Multi Millet Mix is an innovative and complex blend of millet grains

Earlier this week, conglomerate ITC announced its new initiative to promote millets as a part of its steps to ensure food and nutritional security in the wake of challenges from climate change. Under this initiative, named Mission Millets, Hotels-to-packaged goods conglomerate ITC Ltd will be putting together strengths of its agriculture, food and hospitality business verticals to promote millets.

Through the programme, ITC will not only be raising awareness about millets to their consumers but will also be introducing a variety of millet-based products as well. To enable this, ITC’s agriculture, foods and hospitality businesses have together to make millets a preferred food of choice for the masses. Addressing a press conference, CMD at ITC, Sanjiv Puri said "Millets are resilient and more nutritious. They are climate resilient crops, using 70% less water than other staples (rice), grow in half the time as other crops (wheat), and use 40% less energy to process (than wheat)." Puri added, "Millets offer a comprehensive answer for sustained food security in the face of drought, water shortage, climate change and can address the concerns of food security.

India is a producer of millets, with most states growing one or more varieties. According to the fourth advance estimates for the year 2021-22, about 16 million tonnes of millets were produced in India, or five per cent of global output. Jowar and proso millets are the most cultivated, followed by sorghum, pearl millets, ragi and foxtail. Puri said because of lack of demand, benefits of modern technology have not been focussed on millets. "The key objective is to make millet tasty and acceptable to large masses," he said.

The company aims at leveraging its enterprise strength in agriculture as well as its food and hospitality business to promote millets in its products. ITC has already introduced several millet-based products under the Aashirvaad Nature Superfoods brand, including ragi flour, gluten-free atta and multi-millet mix. However, despite this, the company is still working to build a comprehensive mill-based portfolio under well-known brand names and in recognisable formats to facilitate easier acceptance.

The company is now sourcing its millets from Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. It is focusing on the major millets like jowar, bajra, and sorghum, and minor millets like foxtail and little millet. Through farmer-producer organisations (FPOs), ITC will be creating millet value chains and is looking to collaborate with 20 of them on millets. The company has also invested in 7,000 acres of cropland to grow millets for the first phase of the initiative. It is searching for direct procurement from farmers.

To develop the millet-based value chains, the agri business division of ITC has implemented two PPP projects, one each in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. This is being done in partnership with Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Hyderabad and Government of Andhra Pradesh.

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