Millets vs Wheat/Rice

For health reasons (lower glycemic index), I have been opting for millet, quinoa, boiled or red rice, as compared to White rice and Wheat.

While I have heard from the RF team about why millets are better for the planet, it never struck me that it is as much when I read this article and then went into the rabbit hole of trying to read more on Google.

So my questions

  1. Is there any catch? Apart from all the reasons mentioned in the article, like PDS, etc.
  2. If there is no catch, why aren’t many more people talking about this?
  3. Or are people talking about it, and I haven’t seen it sitting in my bubble? :slight_smile:
  4. Are there any second-order effects if more people switched to millets?

For the longest time, Millet (at least Ragi) was considered a poor man/women’s food meant only for the villager. The urban household preferred the shiny hyper polished white rice to millet. So there was some societal stigma around millets.

I still remember reading an article making fun of Deve Gowda when he introduced ‘Ragi Mudde’ to the Parliament.

This could be one of the reasons why this is not accepted in the mainstream Indian diet. I’m not sure if that perspective has changed now.


As Karthik said, I think Social stigma is very important aspect.
I think there are many other factors associated. Also the cost of cultivation mentioned in the Document is not correct, Paddy cannot be growin @ Rs 2000 per acres, and definitely not 2000 per quintal

Cultivation side.
Not much R&D has gone into Harvesting and Threshing (Even today we can see farmers putting these on roads so that vehicles that pass can thresh it)
Post harvest Processing.
Lot of variation in Prices (Supply vs demand)

Consumer side Issues
Lack of understanding of Nutritional value, Micro nutrients etc.
Addiction to Rice, Millets dont taste as good as Maida / Carbohydrates.
Also the way to cook, I have heard that some millets need to be soaked before cooking may be there were some methods that was used, but lost over a period of time.

Commercial side
Consistent Demand
Raw material availablility

Probably if we look at each segment, there may be several such issues and unless we address them holistically the shift may not happen.


A very interesting discussion gets us to dig deeper to get to the core of the problem. Here are some things I have heard while talking to farmers and consumers

Taste - polished wheat and rice tastes better on the palette of most people
Digestion - many people claim that millet is more challenging to digest. I am yet to understand this as it has more fibre. However, one can’t eat much of it as it is heavy.
Perception - This is changing fast, but millet was considered to be the food for the poor and the livestock
Cost - Presently, because of limited production, millets are considered to be an exotic product and accordingly bear inflated prices in urban areas.

We need to understand this a bit more to crack the millet system


Millets have lower gluten content, which makes them an healthier alternative but reduces the elasticity and cohesion of the dough for our rotis and breads thus making them difficult to roll

And as rotis have become a staple part of diet culture, the low gluten cones as a friction in the transition

I have heard that Millets require more physical activity for good digestion

That’s right.

As the anchor and cocreator of the National Coalition for Natural Farming, I got to travel and interact with a diverse group of stakeholders. We came up with four insights for a systems-level shift towards a more healthy and ecological food system. We are working with RF on two of them.

  1. An independent fund that supports actors, particularly small, who are critical for the transformation. RF is a founding partner of the Bharat Agroecology Fund.

  2. Enhance farmer incomes when they do the right thing through payment for ecosystem services. RF has provided the incubation funding for the initiative -

  3. Landscape-level thinking and convergence of resources
    All stakeholders and catalysts of change, Donors, CSOs, and Governments, need to converge and come together to collaborate at a regional level to synergise their efforts using systems-level thinking. No amount of farmer-level interventions without the complementing factors of support in bio-inputs, seeds, farm implements and machinery, supply chains etc., will bring large-scale change. Thus, to make this happen, there needs to be a deeper and wider collaboration among stakeholders at the landscape level. Some initial thought-provoking framework for collaborative thinking is here.

  4. Consumer awareness across all segments
    Farmers have no better incentive to move to Natural Farming than consumer demand. Consumption and purchase of organic/natural food have been sluggish and haven’t risen above the 2% mark for a long time in India. In learning from the past, we need to create local and national campaigns like the ones that enabled egg consumption in India to go up several times when Sachin Tendulkar started promoting it. The Govt of India is doing its bit for Natural Farming; we need to do more to create consumer awareness to bring about a large-scale shift. Some base-level work and ideation on this are here.

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A better way might be to blend gluten free grains with regular wheat to reduce glycemic index gradually (what my mom does).

The second order effects will reveal themselves slowly and rotis will be easier to roll

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As a person who lives in village and doing agriculture.I notice 3 points
1.Paddy and wheat are much more tastier than the millets due to low fibre and cooking paddy is more convenient than other grains.
2.We have large ecosystem with paddy and wheat procurement.For example procuring and processing systems are well established.
3.Due to green revolution and availability of water has increased by infrastructure and using borewells. The paddy and wheat production involves a high water consumption where as millets don’t require such large water.Iam saying about paddy (I didn’t know about wheat) the land used to farm paddy are made higher depth to store water for longer period.Millets can’t grow in high water intensive fileds so millets is not viable for rainy season.Even we grow ragi in rabi season mostly for animal feed
We reached so far that to go back is take very long time.Yes my grandfathers used to grow millets and whole grains due to lack of water.
If millets and whole grains are start to used by everybody the prices will be at for only rich people.Even now the prices are very high.

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I asked Dr Marcus Ranney, founder of, a startup we support through our fintech/health-focused fund He shared his detailed post on Millet with regard to health. This is detailed and informative.

What is your view on millet? Can wheat and rice be replaced completely with millet?

I personally don’t feel they should be a complete substitute - the body must never eat just one form/ type of food alone. Variety is good.

Wheat is allergenic in most people / hence sourdough or gluten free is advised. And we don’t need very much of it at all. Once/ twice a week is more than enough, if needed.

Rice is part of the Indian culture and very hard to remove so I recommend red course rice wherever possible, home made fermented rice batters for South Indian dishes and just a small bit of white rice for those who really want it every now and then with their traditional beef or fish curry. There’s an emotional joy that comes with eating cultural food that shouldn’t be completely displaced.

CGM data is very good to see each individual’s unique/ own response to different rices, grains, and millets. I also run a metabolic and inflammatory blood panel on my patients to keep check of how well they’re doing.

Especially for millets as some of my patients spike very significantly on some of the millets and thinking they’re on a “completely healthy alternative”, they over eat the quantities that are needed.


We make Ragi Dosa at home frequently. Millets introduced into the normal dosa batter, and it is :yum: :slight_smile:

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There was a roundtable webinar on millet markets by WASSAN yesterday afternoon. It brought together some of best people and organisations that have been part of the movement around Millets. This rough note captures some of the concerns that were raised.

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Copy-pasting your notes here from the doc, @ganeshram. Thanks for the summary!


Millet Markets Roundtable Webinar (8th Feb, 2023)

  • Ashwini Kulkarni- Tribal dept. Wants to buy finger millet in Nashik, the documents are not proper- need to understand farmer documentation issues
  • Prof Sukhpal- Mainstreaming millets- notified crops under APMC, if substantial production- then these crops should be notified - every State - will make it easy for channeling through public markets , how many states have millets as notified crops?
  • Ragi, Bajra, jowar notified in some states
  • Bala- There is no quality parameters approved by WDRA
  • Aleen- List of commodities - AGMARK, FSSAI, WDRA
  • Segregate major and minor millets, emphasis on export markets
  • Gap analysis - what policies exit, what are required
  • Economic importance of millets -Bajra, how do we create economic importance - feed and food
  • Processing is complex- if not done properly, husk remains, indigestion, many a times FPO quality not up to marketable standards
  • Nothing so far on defining quality standards for minor millets
  • CPC Sir- Production side support in Ragi (karnataka) - per Ha ;
  • Growing market but challenges eg knowledge of cooking; prices too have increased in last few years
  • Kazhani- shelf life of processed minor millets is very less, it should reach the consumers immediately
  • Karnataka- Ragi area has gone to maize, how to bring about large scale production of millets, production incentive have not been very effective
  • Market institutions should play a role in increasing production
  • Public food security programmes- millets will be costlier to deliver that wheat , rice; should be tried in some states where people can shift to millets
  • Diversify food baskets and build resilience in the crop production systems
  • Millet processing - separation is a major issue , handling primary processing
  • Taste and cooking - primary processing should be handled carefully
  • Sensitization of people towards millets- not about variety, production but culinary skills
  • Navdhanya (Vandana Siva) joined narulas, sell through other products, product and market innovations
  • New ways of going to the market, process innovation (sell directly/through others)
  • Preeti- Consumer does not know how to consume, it will help if these are available in hotels and restaurants , inclusion in hotel menus, reaches the larger consumer; it becomes easier to sell millets as it becomes relatable
  • Price points at which millets are available in comparison to rice - can be done through marketing campaigns
  • How to consume is a knowledge gap, one needs to be specific about how to promote different millets
  • Urban consumer as a ‘healthy alternative’, what is suitable for what , which gives what nutrition
  • ‘Ease of consumption’
  • Integration with rice , ratio of combination in different recipes
  • Simple tips - ‘Kids like’
  • Millets in institutions , cooks have to understand
  • Work on the above required
  • Think of masses- think of street food- taste and affordability
  • Behavioral change- work with Indian medical association
  • Work with the media more intensively
  • Abhishek (Millet mama) - Restaurant and caterer, people dont want to eat on a every day basis, one dedicated restaurant attracts less footfall, one dish in multiple restaurants makes better sense, ‘One restaurant one millet product’
  • Formalization of micro food enterprises- PMFE programme. Simi (?) brand ; they support many group enterprises
  • Decentralized primary processing better or central one specially wrt processing challenges ?
  • Community /cluster level processing facility - food miles, climate change mitigation, role of local community, should not go away from hands of people
  • Catering experience- raw material has stones many time
  • Theme4
  • Presently millets are largely rainfed , other areas can also be brought in
  • 1 kg rice = 600 gm foxtail millet, additional cost expenditure is not big
  • Value chain should be streamlined in a manner that consumers pay for the value they get
  • Productivity level - 8-10 qtl/acre , this is where it will bring viability for farmers
  • Coupled with other interventions - as attractive as competing crops
  • Kazhani-TNAU- cultivating millets on paddy lands in the in-between period of 4 months
  • There are existing experiences of higher productivity
  • Per unit return on various crops from millet belt
  • Millet processing hubs- Nashik (1st) and Madurai belt (2nd), some amount in Kurnool and Karnataka. The price is decided by these clusters.
  • Raw material - 22-35, rice (bulk) - 35- 80, recently gone very high 110 and above. Browntop and barnyard is expensive at 50-60 (raw), farmers did not return back after the initial lull.
  • Who determines and what determines
  • Shubhangi (Ancient Golden Mill-Ankur) - Farmers in north showed interest initially. Farmer awareness required. Three major issues - relatively not cost effective, lack of post harvest threshing facility; primary processing , very few farms left ; farmers dont understand quality , neglect wrt quality
  • Institutional focus wrt support, organized intervention -right machinery, handling harvest, post-harvest
  • Influence Govt to supply millet based nutri mixes to school, angadwadis etc
  • GST slab- different rates for different products
  • Research on nutritive aspects of millets - available with NIN-IMMR , to be utilized
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Not my notes. I missed the call. :slight_smile: thanks to whoever put it together.

Interesting read.

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It’s easy for me to give kids Ragi mudde once in a week but kids all prefer what looks good rather than what’s good for health. Traditionally every part of the country has one or other type of millets like Ragi in Karnataka, Jawar in Maharashtra, bajra in Rajasthan and many more. Good that old things are getting back.


Our understanding is that millets = better for the soil, less water ergo better for the farmer; better for you and me, health-wise; and better for the planet.

Adding millets (or replacing a substantial amount of rice/wheat) to our daily diet is probably one of the easiest forms of individual climate action, and may collectively have a wide impact. The Rainmatter Foundation and The Locavore have therefore started the Millet Revival project as part of wider messaging efforts to get more and more people to understand millets + make it easy to cook with millers. Details here.

We are given to understand that food trends tend to be aspirational and percolate down from what restaurants and chefs start out with. (As Om said, possible to get his kids to eat ragi mudde once a week, but if a restaurant uses ragi in other interesting ways, possibility of consuming ragi more than once a week is higher). The Locavore team is very solid, and working on this aspect. While we’ve started with them on a four-month effort, we want to refine this initiative for the rest of the year.

Wrt to some of @NithinKamath’s questions:

A LOT of talk about millets is happening… thanks to 2023 being International Year of Millet, there are news reports on millet and gaps in millet ecosystem every third/fourth day in the papers. More talk does not mean more adoption. This is a clear gap. @Min and RRA/Wassan folks (and possibly others) are working to nail this.
Second-order effects: Am unaware/ignorant.


This is quite cool, I don’t know how I missed seeing it earlier. :slight_smile:

The right way to eat millets, via today’s Indian Express:


… and:

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