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International Year of Millets   |23 March 2023

International Year of Millets   

HC Pande addressing the guests

Celebrating the nutritional virtues of the ‘Mighty millets’


The nutritional value and dietary benefits of millets, one of the oldest cereal grains in the world, were highlighted in an event dubbed ‘Mighty Millets’, held last Friday at the Nayopi Business Centre in Providence.

Organised by the Indian high commission, the event was to generate awareness about the group of cereal grains that belong to the Poaceae family, commonly known as the grass family.Millets comprise a diverse group of cereals including pearl, proso, foxtail, barnyard, little, kodo, browntop, finger among others.

They are widely consumed in developing countries throughout Africa and Asia and has been an integral part of India's diet for centuries. Millets have gained popularity in the West because they are gluten-free and boasts high protein, fibre, and antioxidant contents and they may lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Due to all these benefits, India, which is the largest producer of millets in the world, in 2018 proposed that there should be an International Year of Millets. The proposal was approved at the United Nations General Assembly in 2021 declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets, and the opening ceremony of the year was done in December last year at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, Italy.

Although sold locally, the cereal grains are not widely known in Seychelles, something which the Indian high commission hopes will soon change with the ‘Mighty Millet’ event, the first of its kind to be held, and which was attended by the Seychelles’ health minister, Peggy Vidot.

When addressing the guests, including members of the diplomatic corps, local businesses and Indian diaspora, the Indian high commissioner (HC) to Seychelles, Karthik Pande, stressed on the importance of the cereal grains and why they constitute the very essence of healthy food, as well as a “powerhouse of nutrients”.

“Research has shown millets as a good defence in the fight against diabetes. Millets have a low glycemic index, having lesser impact on blood glucose levels than foods that are higher up in the index. They are a good source of energy, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, soluble and insoluble fibre, antioxidants, iron, zinc, and vitamins and can help eliminate micronutrient deficiency. A millet-based diet lowers cholesterol, as it is rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids,” he said. 

Mr Pande stated that being the biggest producer of the cereal grains, India’s two varieties of millets, namely Pearl millet (bajra) and Sorghum (jowar) together, contributed approximately 19 percent in world production in 2020.

In 2016, the Indian government set up ‘Nutrihub’, a first of its kind Technology Business Incubator under Indian Institute of Millets Research, in Hyderabad, which caters to start-up needs in the Nutricereals sector of the country and encouraged budding entrepreneurs to promote the growth of Nutricereals (Millets). In April 2018, Millets were re-branded as “Nutri Cereals”.

He added that in the international context, millets can play a crucial role to help achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs), because they use 70% less water than rice and grow in half the time of wheat, they need 40% less energy in processing and can withstand extreme heat conditions.

He added that they are also rain-fed crop requiring minimal use of fertilisers and no pesticide as they are less vulnerable to insect attack. Seeds of millet can be stored for years making it advantageous in drought-prone areas.

So, millets can help in achieving the following particular SDGs – SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production), SDG 13 (Climate Action). Millets are thus an important ingredient in the quest for food security,” stated the Indian HC.

For her part, Minister Vidot said that although the Seychellois population is not familiar with millets, this does not mean that food habits cannot change especially when seeing the health benefits brought about by the grains.

“We are witnessing an increase in overweight, and obesity of epidemic proportions and part of that epidemic is the fact that eating habits have changed and are changing in an unfavourable direction. In addressing the issue of obesity, we need greater efforts in promoting changes in eating habits that have positive health benefits,” stated Minister Vidot.

She therefore urged the citizens to increase the consumption of plant-based foods to reduce obesity and overweight and to make millets part of that habit especially considering the dietary benefits.

“I shall leave this as a challenge to the producers, importers, distributors and above all to the nutritionists, food outlets and those who influence our eating habits. Be assured that the Ministry of Health will support you as best we can in promoting better nutrition and better health,” concluded the minister.

One local outlet specialising in the importation of plant-based items such as millets, is Gopi Supermarket, based in Providence. According to its owner, Gopi Dubasia, for the ‘Mightly Millet’ event, they imported everything through Gopi limited and through Nayopi, their vegetarian plant-based restaurant, they prepared several millet-based snacks and desserts, which could be sampled by the guests at Friday’s event.

“There were nine millets that we had to display, and we were able to get eight of them, as one was not available in India,” explained Mrs Dubasia.

The menus on display were two Indian-Chinese fusion recipes, the Manchurian Millet balls and multi-millet cheese cutlet, an Indian specialty which was mix millet peas and potato samoosa, ‘ragi’ millet mini pastry, which is an Indian-European fusion, ‘banyard’ millet burfi, as well as passion fruit pearl miller cooler for refreshment, which is a Nayopi special.

In a short presentation, Mrs Dubasia also highlighted the benefits of the cereal grains, which is considered good to fight against cancer and diabetes.

Locals seeking to try out the cereal grains can do so at the Gopi Supermarket, which presently imports three types of millets, namely Pearl Millet (Bajra),  Sorghum (Jowar) and Finger Millet (Ragi Flour), whose prices range from R23 to R30 per kilogramme.

The accompanying photos show some highlights of Friday’s event.


Patsy Canaya

Photos by Joena Meme


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