The International Year of Millets as envisaged by the UN and adopted by different countries including India has resulted in soaring prices of all the coarse grains such as jowar, ragi, bajra by anywhere between 40% and 100% in just one year, The Economic Times has reported. Buoyed by the government’s push, MNCs and Indian FMCG majors have unleashed campaigns that have stimulated demand. Another factor pushing up the prices has been unpredictable weather that has created supply obstacles. Millets are small-grained, annual, warm-weather cereals belonging to the grass family that can be cultivated in semi-arid conditions since these need less water to grow, unlike rice and wheat which need more water. India proposed to the UN that 2023 be observed as the International Year of Millets. The prices of jowar, bajra and ragi from the wholesale markets drive home the rate of rise of these less water-intensive crops. In the Solapur market of Maharashtra, the price of jowar has moved up from Rs 35/kg in December 2019 to Rs 38 in December 2022 and further to Rs 60 in December 2023. The price of ragi in Bangalore dipped from Rs 32.50/kg in December 2019 to 30 in December 2022 but jumped to Rs 40 in December 2023. In Alwar of Rajasthan, the price of bajra has shot up from Rs 17/kg in December 2019 to Rs 20 in December 2022 and then to Rs 21 in December 2023. The entry of FMCG majors has resulted in new offerings such as millet-based pasta, noodles and snacks. Millets have been suddenly included in breakfast cereals. Furthermore, people have started consuming more millets in the traditional form of flour and rotis made out them. While demand has shot up, supply-side troubles have hobbled the companies. Millet-based startups have found it tough to find sufficient supply of quality raw material to the vagaries of the weather. Drought in the jowar-growing areas of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana has exacerbated the problem. On the other hand, excess rainfall in brown top crop areas in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala pulled down production of millets. The combined effect has been a spike in prices, the report said. Annapurna Kalluri, chief executive officer of Sri Haritha Agro Food Products said, “Prices of all the millets have increased abnormally. “Prices of millets see a jump of 15- 20% every month and moreover, undergo a lot of fluctuations. The availability is also limited.” Sri Haritha Agro Food Products supplies millet-based meals to government schools. It is also engaged in the contract manufacturing of value-added products of millet for other brands apart from its own brand Avasya.
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