Generating momentum: International Year of Millets 2023 (IYOM 23)

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17 September 2022, India: The webinar ‘Leveraging Millets for Nutrition and Health’ organised by ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform has highlighted ICRISAT’s role as the Government of India’s knowledge partner for the IYOM 20233.

The seminar was organised as part of ICRISAT’s “Smart Food” initiative celebrating India’s National Nutrition Week 2022.

Eminent speakers were drawn from across different sectors representing apex policymakers, food and health industry leaders, and senior scientists.

Strategies for millet promotion

The guest of honour Dr Neelam Patel, Senior Advisor (Agriculture and Allied Sectors) Niti Aayog, New Delhi, presented the challenges and opportunities, identified by the Government of India to mainstream millets into food systems by leveraging the nutritional and health benefits of millets and promoting R&D along with an appropriate policy system.

“I am confident that this important webinar will foster strategic partnerships and identify strategic interventions to promote millets as nutri-cereals for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.

“ICRISAT as a knowledge partner of the Government of India for IYOM23, brings its vast global experience in the areas of millet genetic diversity, breeding and crop improvement, natural resource management, promoting nutrition and dietary diversity, food processing and value addition, food safety, and promoting millet-based entrepreneurship,” said Dr Neelam Patel in her keynote address.

She touched upon ICRISAT’s role in fostering South-South Cooperation for strengthening the millet movement in Africa and the role of ICRISATs gene bank, which is a world repository of sorghum and millets germplasm, and in promoting millets across the globe.

Dr. Patel emphasized the need for setting up an expert committee, involving different stakeholders, to work closely with Niti Aayog to create guidelines for ensuring that millet-based food products are manufactured and marketed as per International Quality Standards.

Combating malnutrition and hidden hunger with millets

Dr Victor Afari-Sefa, Research Program Director, Enabling Systems Transformation, ICRISAT, underscored the importance of sustainable eating to combat malnutrition, hidden hunger and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

“It is very important to implement millet-based nutritional intervention schemes all over the globe and mainstream millets into the regular diets of rural and urban communities,” said Dr Victor Afari-Sefa.

Making millets desirable

Bringing in the industry perspective on millets and Nutrition, Dr Vidyashankar Satyakumar, Head – R&D Excellence and Capacity Building, Britannia Industries Ltd., dwelled on the aspect of creating sustainable demand-pull for millets through innovation and leveraging on the 8 P’s – Product, Price, Place, Promotion, Policy, Packaging, Patents, and Publications – and creating a new image to millets as a “desire of the rich”.

Metabolic health benefits of millets

Dr Meenakshi Bajaj, Dietician, Tamil Nadu Government, Multi Super Specialty Hospital, Chennai provided participants with information on a topical and lesser-known aspect of millets i.e., its metabolic health benefits. Her informative presentation focused on positive behavioural change for sustainably integrating millets into diets.

Orchestrating demand

Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT, shared his concluding remarks that leveraging millets for nutrition and health, requires close coordination among different stakeholders to ensure the creation of sustainable demand leading to an efficient value chain while understanding consumer behaviour.

The sessions ended with closing remarks from Mr Aravazhi Selvaraj, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Agribusiness and Innovation Platform, ICRISAT.

Also Read: India is on its journey to become number one in the agriculture sector in the world: Agriculture Minister Mr. Tomar

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