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ITC is planning to jump on the millets bandwagon by leveraging the strength of its businesses in the agriculture, food, and hospitality sectors. Sanjiv Puri, chairman & managing director of the company, on Wednesday, announced the launch of the ITC Millets Mission.
As part of the drive, the company will now introduce millets into most of its packaged food products, from noodles to atta, biscuits, cookies, and confectionaries, and build a dedicated backend of 20-odd farmer-producer companies, from which it will source the millets.
That apart, it would introduce millets and millets-based food items into all buffet, lunch, and dinner menus across ITC hotels.
Puri said the group is committed to channeling a sizable investment into millets as part of the Mission but “can’t commit a number” as yet.
“ITC’s addressable market of its products is around Rs 5 trillion and over time, millets have the potential of capturing almost 80 per cent of the same,” Puri told reporters.
Several millet-based products have already been introduced under the Aashirvaad Nature’s Super Foods 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 that can be ordered at home.
ITC is also developing a comprehensive millets-based portfolio under popular brand names and in familiar formats for easier adoption.
Some of the products that would be launched over time include millet-based noodles and millet pasta under the YiPPee! Brand; ragi vermicelli, multi-millet dosa mix, multi-millet rava idli mix under the Aashirvaad brand; 100 per cent multi millet-based cookies under Sunfeast; millet choco-sticks confectionary under Candyman Fantastik; and millet-based snacks under Bingo!.
Besides, ITC Agri Business is focusing on millets through ITCMAARS – millets-focused end-to-end digital platform -- for building awareness about millet farming through promotions and campaigns, and tie-ups with R&D institutes for technology transfer.
It is also currently sourcing millets (sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, etc) from three states -- Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
As part of developing millet value-chains, the Agri Business Division has implemented two PPP projects, one each in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, in partnership with Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), Hyderabad, and the Government of Andhra Pradesh, respectively.
In these projects, improved varieties and crop cultivation practices are disseminated through crop demonstrations, training for capacity building of farmers on millet cultivation, post-harvest management, and marketing and market linkages.
ITC Hotel’s expert chefs are creating easy-to-try recipes with millets to help encourage individuals to experiment with the taste and texture of millets.
S Sivakumar, head of ITC’s agriculture and IT businesses, said the company plans to source millets from around 7,000 acre for its various products.
He said ragi, bajra and sorghum are the most popular millets, but foxtail and others are also getting good traction among farmers and others.
He said in India around 14 mt of millets are produced per year, of which half goes into animal feed and a third is retained by farmers for self-consumption. That leaves a small amount for marketable surplus.
Sivakumar said that profitability and offtake of millets have been a cause of concern for farmers and kept the production down, so far, in the country compared to cereals.
Anil Chadha, divisional chief executive of ITC Hotels said henceforth "every day and in every ITC Hotel, you will find a bajra, or ragi or jowar dish. "
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First Published: Wed, January 25 2023. 21:00 IST