Startups find meat in millets, gear up to meet global demand

A Jodhpur-based bakery this year exported millet cakes and cookies to the UAE, Indonesia and South Africa and is seeing strong demand for such gluten-free and vegan-friendly snacks made from locally sourced millets. It is among the 200-odd startups involved in producing millet-based products.

From “mota anaaj (coarse grains)” to Shree Anna, millets have come a long way in India, in not only their branding but also exports. A 37.68% increase in exports to $57.14 million in five years to 2022-23, buckwheat, ragi, jawar, bajra, amaranth and canary seeds have found favour across the world. In the first six months of 2023-24, millet exports touched almost $30 million. In 2021, India was the top millet producer in the world with a 20% share of global production, followed by the US and Nigeria.

The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has also organised food sampling and tasting campaigns at supermarkets and malls across the world have helped millets gain traction.

With 2023 being declared the International Year of Millets, diverse food preparations made from these coarse grains have gained popularity. From salads to dessert, jowar khakhra to bajra cake and bhujia, ragi biscuits and gajak, consumers are now spoilt for choice. There are 500 stock keeping units (SKU) of millet-based food products in the country, according to officials.

“The export of food preparation based on millets has increased 15% since last year,” said an official, who did not wish to be identified, adding that a new HS code (tariff classification) for value-added products of millets is being introduced which will help capture the export and import numbers better. Ready-to-eat breakfast cereal mix, biscuits, cookies and snacks, and ready-to-cook mixes such as dosa, idli and khichri are the best-selling export items. In its result update for the second quarter ended September 30, fast-moving consumer goods firm ITC said it has implemented a focused strategy to craft a millet-based product portfolio for every occasion, age and format, and has launched products across traditional and modern formats such as multi-millet mix and ragi flour.

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