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Explained: Why 2023 will be the International Year of Millets

There is an urgent need to promote the nutritional and ecological benefit of millets to consumers, producers, and decision-makers, to improve production efficiencies, research, and development investments and food sector linkages

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has unanimously adopted a resolution sponsored by India and supported by 70 countries to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets.

India, along with Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Russia and Senegal, had tabled the draft resolution entitled 'International Year of Millets 2023' to raise awareness and direct policy action to the nutritional and health benefits of millets consumption and their suitability for cultivation under adverse and changing climatic conditions.
 
Millets, often called 'nutri-cereals', encompass a diverse group of cereals and were among the first plants that were domesticated and have served as a traditional staple crop for millions of families in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. More than 90 per cent of millet production today takes place in developing countries of Africa and Asia.

Millets can survive in adverse climatic conditions and provide high energy, high dietary fiber, proteins, many essential minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, all of which play a substantial role in lowering diabetes. The diversity of millets offers opportunities for economic development through income-generating activities in the food sector.

Capable of growing on poor soils with little or no inputs, millets have a low carbon and water footprint and are resistant to many crop diseases and pests.  

While millet cultivation has been historically widespread, their production is declining in many countries. There is an urgent need to promote the nutritional and ecological benefit of millets to consumers, producers, and decision-makers, to improve production efficiencies, research, and development investments and food sector linkages.

"The primary objective of the resolution is to raise awareness and direct policy action to the nutritional and health benefits of millet consumption and their suitability for cultivation under adverse and changing climatic conditions. The resolution will also draw focus for enhanced investments in R&D and extension services related to millets," said UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti.

The resolution is based on the resolution on benefits of millets consumption adopted by the FAO at its 41st session held in Rome in June, 2019. The resolution had requested the General Assembly to declare 2023 the International Year of Millets.

The commemoration of the International Year of Millets will help in creating greater awareness of millet production. It will contribute to food security, nutrition, ensuring livelihoods and incomes of farmers, poverty eradication and the achievement of the SDGs, particularly in regions that are drought prone or threatened by climate change. It will also help promote millets as a key component of the food basket.