Focus on millets to help Tamil Nadu harvest a bounty from international exports

Apart from traditionally exported produce like rice, wheat, processed fruits and nuts, millets would be earning the primary focus of exporters, and governments both at the centre and state.

Published: 19th December 2022 05:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th December 2022 05:06 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  The volume of agricultural exports from Tamil Nadu is expected to surge in 2023 as the changing dietary preferences in the western markets and shifts in the global supply chain owing to the Russia-Ukraine conflict opens up new opportunities for the state. Shobana Kumar, regional head for Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) predicts the rise in volume to be 5%-7%. Agri-exports from the state stood at Rs 11,465 crore in 2021-22 and at Rs 7,302 crore in the current financial year till October, as per the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS) under the Ministry of Commerce.

Apart from traditionally exported produce like rice, wheat, processed fruits and nuts, millets would be earning the primary focus of exporters, and governments both at the centre and state. With a push from the Narendra Modi-led union government, the United Nations General Assembly recently declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets and the programme was launched earlier this month. Being less water intensive, and having a lower carbon footprint are some of the reasons the UN turned the spotlight on millets.

Eight major varieties of millets -- podo, pearl, sorghum, finger, barnyard, little, fox tail and proso millet -- are cultivated across the state and the UN programme poses a huge opportunity for the farmers, farmer producer organisations (FPOs) and food processing units. Perambalur, Madurai, Sivangangai, Ramanathapuram, and Jawadhu Hills at present boast of significant acreage for millet cultivation.

According to DGCIS data, Tamil Nadu exported 4,965 tonnes of millets in 2020-21 and 4,328 tonnes in 2021-22. APEDA has tied up with the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) in Hyderabad to facilitate entrepreneurs and exporters for value-added millet products. Many of the exporters have already completed registration. “The state government is planning to announce 22 districts (12 southern and 10 northern) as millet export zones to promote exports. A detailed project report (DPR) for the same is in the final stages,” agriculture department secretary C Samayamoorthy told TNIE.

Tiruchy-based food processing unit founder and exporter V Sivaramakrishnan said the demand for millet-based products are on the rise in the western markets, especially in the United States as people have become more health conscious. “Millets fit the bill perfectly as they have low glycemic index and high-nutritious value. People in countries where medical care is expensive are adopting millet-based diets,” he said.  

The company sells over 80 value-added millet products such as noodles, semiya, cookies, dry dosa, idli batter, health mix and ladoo. He said the recognition of millets by the UN is a strategic move and would create great avenues for agricultural exports from TN.

Meanwhile, the demand for value-added moringa products, mango pulp, cucumber, and gherkins have grown recently, Shobana Kumar said, adding that traditional rice varieties like seeraga samba and karuppu pauni are also being exported to African countries from the delta region.

Faced with shortage of eggs, the Malaysian government recently approached Indian Embassy for airlifting eggs from India. The consignment was sent to Malaysia on Thursday, and poultry exports to the region is expected to further grow in coming years as the Ukraine conflict disrupted supply from Malaysia’s traditional exporters like France and Turkey.

Speaking on the development, PV Senthil, managing director of Kavery bio proteins and secretary of livestock and agri farmers trade association, said, the conflict has ensured a competitive price for Namakkal eggs in the international market. According to him, a carton of 360 Namakkal eggs cost 30 US dollars, while a carton from Turkey costs 36 USD. “Eggs from Namakkal are exported to Oman, Bahrain, and Maldives among other places. Demand from Qatar has spiked at least four times recently owing to the FIFA World Cup,” he said.

Though TN’s egg export trade is negligible in the global market, PV Senthil said, the poultry industry can finally regain lost ground in the present scenario. He added 15 lakh eggs are exported daily from TN now compared to 5 lakh per day in 2021. Speaking more on the policy incentives by the state, C Samayamoorthy said, “Tamil Nadu is taking efforts to promote and facilitate agri-exports, including interest subvention scheme for loans for food processing industries and setting up of moringa export zones.”

He further explained that certification process related to pesticide and fertilizer use for crops is a key parameter in the export market and the state government has established a National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) on a pilot-basis at Agricultural University in Coimbatore. The government also plans to set up NABL labs in Chennai and Tiruchy.

(For the full report, visit


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