Millet processors from across India gathered to discuss ways to test and enter export markets. Innovative options were presented to achieve this and a basket of quality millet (including sorghum) branded products pulled together to show off Indian products.
This initiative is led by a partnership of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) and ICRISAT. Three opportunities were presented to assist companies export millet processed products:
- Trade exhibitions and promotion undertaken with a special Smart Food section and promotional activities and material to support this.
- Distribution chain set up with an exporter, importer and distributor to help with market entry.
- Product sampling and market testing undertaken in export markets.
Industry engaged in discussions to also identify key areas to take forward to better support exports. These included:
- Selecting one major trade fair, implementing this initiative and then collecting lessons learnt to continue to build the initiative.
- Setting up a WhatsApp group for millet processors and organizations who wish to be involved.
- Implementing research projects, including market research as well as technical research, especially to extend the shelf life of millet flour.
- Reviewing improvements to grading and processing standards.
This was followed by an open sharing by food processors on what has worked for marketing millet products to urban markets in India and brainstorming new approaches.
A campaign is being planned that will have strong engagement by the millet processors, retailers and consumers.
Partnerships formed to popularize millets
Four partnerships were signed at the event – expected to be just the beginning of what will be a multi-stakeholder initiative to popularize millets.
- ICRISAT and IIMR signing an MOU to engage in Smart Food activities and co-lead the initiative in India.
- ICRISAT and three millet food processors signing an MOA to jointly promote Smart Food and select products to be representative of Smart Food Signature Products.
Addressing the processors, Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, said, “We are trying to create a millet movement here. Millets have been under invested in and it’s the public-private partnership that can best take this forward. We need to see how we make millets part of the daily meal. We need to engage consumers on a large scale using social media; engage countries and encourage them to take a lead. Millets will be important to manage our food system if we have to reach the Sustainable Development goals. With climate change this is going to be a very important solution for the future. Millets will be important to diversify on farm and for the consumer are important nutritional value. I see this meeting as the coalition of the willing.”
Signing of MOA to collaborate on Smart Food promotions including Smart Food Signature Products
Dr Vilas Tonapi, Director, IIMR said, “This is an opportune time. We have never had such an opportunity. State governments are talking about millets – it has become a buzzword. The Government of India has been discussing it more now. We can’t separate millets and organics – they go together. One of our first research requirements is to extend the shelf life of millets and this will be even more important for exporting. We also need guidelines on exporting millets including a dos and don’ts section to assist food processors in India.”
Mr Sudhakar, Deputy General Manager, APEDA, stated, “The lowest hanging fruit to export millets are to Indian’s living overseas, through Indian and international supermarkets and Indian restaurants. We can later enter the mass market as Indian food has been mainstreamed. In Japan alone there are 6000 Indian restaurants and 4000 of these are in Tokyo. Local chefs also need not just recipes but training on how to use millets. If we can provide this we create a demand pull. Promotional activities and material provided ahead of and during trade shows can be very effective.”