Diversified conglomerate ITC is planning to introduce millets into most of its packaged food products, in an effort to mainstream these nutri-cereals, chairman and managing director Sanjiv Puri on Wednesday said. “Over a period of time we will mainstream millets to make these more accessible to people. The plan will help address the concerns of food security,” Puri told mediapersons.
Under the ITC Mission Millets programme, the company over time will launch millet-based noodles and pasta under the YiPPee brand, ragi vermicelli, multi-millet dosa and rava idli mixes under the Aashirvaad brand. Besides this, 100% multi-millet-based cookies under Sunfeast will be launched, along with millet choco-sticks confectionery under Candyman Fantastik and millet-based snacks under the Bingo brand.
The company aims at leveraging its enterprise strength in agriculture as well as its food and hospitality business to promote millets in its products. The company has already started millet-based dishes in its hotel chain. It has some millet-based products under the Aashirvaad Nature Superfoods brand including ragi flour, gluten-free atta and multi-millet mix. Aashirvaad soul creations, as part of ITC’s Food Tech Initiative, offers millet-based khichdi which can be home delivered.
The conglomerate will be working with 20 farmer producers organisations (FPOs) for developing millets value chain through its super app, Meta Market for Advanced Agricultural Services (MAARS), for providing farmers with end-to-end solutions.
Puri said because of lack of demand, benefits of modern technology have not been focussed on millets. “The key objective is to make millet tasty and acceptable to large masses,” he said.As part of developing millet value chains, ITC has implemented two projects in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh in collaboration with Indian Institute of Millets Research, Hyderabad for improving varieties, cultivation, post-harvest management and market linkage in millets.
ITC’s agri business arm is currently sourcing nutri-cereals such as sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, etc from farmers in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. In April 2018, millets were re-branded as ‘nutri cereals’ and the government declared it the national year of millets with the objective of generating more production and consumption. The United Nation General Assembly is celebrating 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
Millets are primarily grown during the kharif season in rain-fed areas, as these crops need much lower amount of agricultural inputs than rice and wheat. According to S Sivakumar, group head – agri and IT businesses at ITC, the super app ITCMAARS will cover as many as 4,000 FPOs, practically all such organisations in the nine states where the company has extensive agri business presence, by 2030.
The app provides assorted agricultural and allied services to farmers on the digital platform. The supply of seeds, fertilisers and services like soil testing, weather forecast and marketing are being carried out via the facility.