International Year of Millets Big Biz For India & West Africa
Companies like B&G Foods considering investment in millet futures!
In March this year, the United Nations accepted India’s proposal to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets. This coarse and ancient cereal has been recognized for its climate-resilient characteristics, the potential to solve global nutritional security challenges, and as a sustainable alternative to major cereals. People are waking up to the nutritional benefits of millets, and their ability to prevent lifestyle diseases. Millet also has fewer pest and disease problems compared to other cereals and is suited to different cropping systems.
S. Anitha, a senior scientist working on nutrition at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics, or ICRISAT, shared insights from a four-year-long global study assessing the benefits of different millets with Devex. The results showed that millets lower the risk of developing Type-2 diabetes and overall cholesterol levels, also it can reduce iron deficiency anemia.
“All this provides a very strong case to bring millets this little appreciated Superfood back into the mainstream. The smart food approach aims to diversify staples with millets. Since staples are typically 70% of the plate, this change can have a big impact. resilient to extreme conditions including high temperatures and drought. They can grow in the harshest, most arid regions. While an increase in temperature by even a few degrees can severely impact agriculture and the productivity of the major cereals, threatening the food security of billions of people.”
Given the harsh agro ecologies of a warming world, we need to move away from intensive cultivation of GMO favorited cereals such as rice, maize, and wheat, and diversify our farming systems to include inherently hardy crops, Currently, around 55% of millets are grown in arid regions of Africa, 40% in Asia, and 3% in Europe. Most millet varieties can be harvested within 60 days of sowing, which means a farmer can grow it at least two to three times a year.
The U.N. General Assembly recently adopted a resolution, sponsored by India and supported by more than 70 countries, declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets. The resolution is intended to increase public awareness on the health benefits of millets and their suitability for cultivation under tough conditions marked by climate change. Outside of India the largest producers of millet are in West Africa and this could be a Billion dollar opportunity that feeds the world and enriches West African nations who are expanding infrastructure for producing and bringing their own products to the global marketplace. Millet production is distributed differentially among a large number of African countries; Its largest producers being in West Africa led by Nigeria (41%), Niger (16%), Burkina Faso (7%), Mali (6.4%), Senegal and Sudan (4.8% each). Whose governments are considering desalination plants to expand the availability of water for crop expansion. One plant at the cost of only 4 million dollars could supply water to hundreds of farms.
Millet is an ancient seed, originally hailing from Africa and northern China, and it remains a staple in the diets of about a third of the world’s population. Rich in iron, B vitamins and calcium, millet has a mild corn flavor and is naturally gluten-free. Sure, on first glance you might be tempted to think that raw millet looks like birdseed. But these little yellow beads have a really lovely and light texture when cooked, are relatively quick-cooking because of their small size, and are incredibly versatile in dishes ranging all the way from breakfast to dinner.
When preparing millet, many often toast it in a skillet with olive oil before adding any liquid to enhance the nutty flavor of the grain. Then, there are two general ways that you can cook it. The first will result in a fluffy, whole-grain side dish much like quinoa. The second way is to use more water (3 cups instead of 2 cups) to result in a creamy, porridge with a polenta-like consistency — great for breakfasts. If you’re going this route, stir it much more frequently. This creamy version is also fantastic because you can pour it into a pan to cool, slice it as you would polenta, and fry it into croquettes or savory squares. Millet takes a few minutes to toast, about 15 minutes to cook, and 10 minutes to fluff. All told, about 30 minutes total cook time. Finally the African millet porridge is made with millet flour. African Millet porridge (also known as “uji wa wimbi” in Swahili)Add spices like cardamom, cinnamon to the porridge. It can be served with chopped dried or fresh fruits. Another easier way to make the porridge is to first mix the flour and water into a paste. Then add the required water and mix. Heat the mixture stirring it all the time till it becomes thick. Replace water with milk if you wish for a creamier texture. Millet is a tasty and important crop especially true during periods of natural disaster when food becomes scarce.