Millets FAQ

August 31, 2016

General Information What are millets?

Millets are cereal grains just like paddy, wheat. However, they are nutrition rich, non-glutinous, climate change hardy, drought resistant and farmer friendly crops.

What are the commonly available millets in India?

Nine millets are available in India. The more easily available ones are

  • Sorghum
  • Pearl millet
  • Finger millet
  • Foxtail millet
  • Proso millet
  • Kodo millet
  • Little millet
  • Barnyard millet
  • Brown top millet

The first three are more easily available than the latter six. Why are naked grain millets more easily available than husked ones?

The primary reason is that they do not have husk and therefore require little processing post cultivation for them to be edible.

Why are the husked millets not so easily available and why are they more expensive than the naked grains?

Removal of husk is a non-trivial task. The mechanization of de-husking has not been achieved to the same level as with other grains like paddy. Lower availability, increased cost of processing has contributed to husked millets being more expensive than the naked ones.

What are the different layers of a small millet grain?

A hard cellulosic material forms the outermost layer of a small millet grain. Within that is the fibre, minerals and fatty acid rich bran layer. Within that lies the carbohydrate rich endosperm and the protein rich germ.

What happens when millets are polished?

The bran layer is removed during the process of polishing. So most of the grain’s fibre, minerals and fatty acid are lost and only the carbohydrate rich endosperm is conveyed to the consumer.

History of millets What is the history of millet consumption by humans? Millets were staple grain in India, parts of Africa, China, Japan, Russia , and Europe from ancient times. Why haven’t millets continued to be our staple food? Millets were not promoted as a food crop by industrial food production policy makers. There are three primary reasons for this:

  1. Millets do not require irrigation, fertilization or pesticides for cultivation. Industries such as chemical and fertilizers, cement, and engineering would not have grown at the same rate as they have now if millets had been promoted.
  2. At the time of green revolution and later, the policy makers chose to focus on aspirational food grains like wheat, rice than grains that were already being used as a staple source in people’s foods.
  3. Millets are relatively smaller grains when compared to rice, wheat. Processing them is a bit more difficult when compared to other grains. With researchers and policy makers focusing elsewhere, small millet processing technology has not received the attention needed to sustain / improve the availability of millets.

Cultivation and farm related Millets & the environment   Nutritional impact of millets   Processing millets