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Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Announces “Millet Challenge” With Rs. 1 Crore Prize Each For 3 Startups

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Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Ministry of Finance (MoF), attended the two-day Millet Conclave 2022 on the theme of “Making Many Millet Magnets-Making Many Millet Entrepreneurs” on the August 26 -27, 2022, jointly organised by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Raichur, Karnataka.

  • The Finance Minister (FM) made announcements about the “Millet Challenge” and a funding of Rs. 25 crore by NABARD to UAS, Raichur, during the ceremony.

A millet exhibition with 50 stalls was also displayed during the event to demonstrate various products by farmers, Farmer Producers Organizations (FPOs), millet processors, millet start-ups, and others to raise awareness and interest in millets.


Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoA&FW); Union Minister of State (MoS), Sushri Shobha Karandlaje, MoA&FW; Chief Minister (CM) of Karnataka Basavaraj Bommai; B.C. Patil, Minister of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka.


The conclave served as a prelude to the International Year of Millets (IYoM)-2023 by encouraging participants to take initiatives in accordance with the FM’s announcement in her Budget 2022–2023 speech

  • It was focused to enhance post-harvest value addition, increase domestic consumption, brand millet products on a national and international scale, and place Karnataka at the forefront of millet production and processing.

The Millet Challenge

i.The Millet Challenge will be administered by the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) of the NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), with UAS, Raichur as its field partner.

Aim: To create a platform for research and innovation, promote overall innovation, boost the competitiveness of Indian start-ups and SMEs, and improve millet farming profitability.

ii.The Millet Challenge will award seed grant of –

  • Rs. 1 crore each to three winners
  • Rs. 20 lakhs to 15 selected candidates
  • Rs. 10 lakhs to 15 other selected candidates

iii.Startups are encouraged by the “Millet Challenge” to develop products that address problems along the millet value chain.

  • It urges startups to collaborate with the kind of companies that can enable brand millets from India to reach all countries across the world.

iv.The FM has insisted on focusing on the backward Kalyana Karnataka region, which is known for millets, and on developing a brand for this region of the state.

Note: Karnataka’s Kodagu and Araku regions are well-known for their coffee.

A Funding of Rs 25 Crore by NABARD To UAS, Raichur, Karnataka

Sitharaman also announced a Rs. 25 crore funding from NABARD under the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) to the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) at Raichur, Karnataka.

  • The funding is intended to support the government of Karnataka’s initiatives for the creation of the Millet Value Chain Park, incubation centre for processing, value addition, and capacity building to support crop promotion and nutritional security.

Significance of Millets in India

i.India took the lead in pushing for the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) resolution designating 2023 as the International Year of Millets (IYoM) in order to boost domestic and international demand and give people nutritional meals. A total of 72 nations endorsed the Indian proposal.

ii.In April 2018, the Government of India (GoI) announced millets as nutri-cereals.

iii.The production of millets climbed by 16% to 17.26 million tonne (MT) in the 2019–20 crop year (July–June) from 14.5 MT in 2015–16, according to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

iv.There are about 21 states where millets are grown in India, including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana.

  • According to 2020 data, India is the world leader in millet production, accounting for approximately 41% of total global production & the 5th largest exporter.
  • Following Rajasthan, Karnataka is India’s second-largest producer of millets.

Health Benefits of Millets

  • The millets have a low glycemic index and are a good source of protein, fibre, minerals, iron, and calcium.
  • There are 11 main types of millet that are produced and exported from India and are regarded as nutri-cereals, including Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi) and Minor Millets (Kangani).

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About National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD):

Chairperson – Dr. G.R. Chintala
Founded – 1982
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra