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Hotels-to-packaged goods conglomerate ITC Ltd on Wednesday said it will focus on ensuring that millets, such as jowar, bajra and ragi, become more mainstream across its agriculture, packaged food and hotels businesses.

Under the company’s Mission Millets programme, it will be educating consumers about the benefits of millets through brand campaigns and promotion of its Sunfeast cookies and Aashirvaad atta brands, as well as building an integrated value chain with the help of farmer producer organizations. ITC hotels, too, will promote millet-based meals and dishes as part of the programme.

“Agriculture, food and hospitality: all three are coming together and going to focus on ITC Mission Millets. We wish to educate consumers about the benefits that this grain has. Second, we want to empower farmers and bring in best agronomic practices. We will ultimately centre it around farmer organizations and are looking at 20 FPOs, which will be powered by ITC-MAARS that will bring hyper-local personalized advisory and the state-of-art information to farmers. The third step, of course, is to encourage consumers to mainstream ese products," Sanjiv Puri, chairman, ITC, said during a virtual media address.

United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millet.

ITC has already introduced several millet-based products under the Aashirvaad Nature Superfoods brand, including ragi flour, gluten-free atta and multi-millet mix.

More products, such as millet-based noodles and pasta is being offered under YiPPee!, and ragi vermicelli, multi-millet dosa and rava idli mix under the Aashirvaad brand. Millet-based cookies under Sunfeast, and millet-based snacks under Bingo! are set to be launched.

India is a major producer of millets, with most states growing one or more varieties. According to the fourth advance estimates for the year 2021-22, about 16 million tonnes of millets were produced in India, or 5% of global output. Jowar and proso millets are the most cultivated, followed by sorghum, pearl millets, ragi and foxtail.

The ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare has taken several initiatives to promote Indian and international millets. “In most of our food categories, we will find variants with inclusion of millets. You will also find, where feasible, products made of 100% millets and we will also find things like multi-millet mix," Puri said.

In 2023, ITC through its agri-business division will cover 7,000 acres of area under millet cultivation.

ITC’s agri business is currently sourcing required millets (Sorghum, Pearl Millet, Ragi etc.) from three key states i.e. Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. “As a part of developing millet value chains, the Agri Business Division has implemented two PPP projects, one each in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh in partnership with Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Hyderabad and Government of Andhra Pradesh, respectively. In these projects, improved varieties and crop cultivation practices are disseminated through crop demonstrations, trainings were organized for capacity building of farmers on millet cultivation, post-harvest management, marketing; and market linkages were provided to catchment farmers," the company said.

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