Millet Value Chain

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Millet Production


Millet hulls are the by-product of the dehulling of millet grains for human consumption. The millet species is usually unspecified and the hulls may come from any of the major or minor millet species (including proso millet Panicum miliaceum, pearl millet Pennisetum glaucum and foxtail millet Setaria italica). Millet hulls are a fibrous by-product often used as a filling material (in pillows, for example) but rarely as a livestock feed. However, they have been tested in ruminants, pigs and poultry. Millet is one of many seed grasses that can be used as a food source. The grain, similar in nutrient composition to corn, is richer in protein and fibre. Millet has been cultivated for thousands of years and is believed to be one of the first grains harvested by humans for food. Millet prefers hot, extended summers and does well growing in the southern states below the Mason-Dixon line. 1


Land preparation

It is recommended that land preparation be done early. Fine soils in the seedbed ensure that the small grains germinate, therefore large clods should be broken or the land harrowed after the first ploughing.

Timely field preparation facilitates timely sowing which ensures higher yield. Land preparation should ensure that all crop residues, crop volunteers and weeds are completely buried. Summer ploughing is advantageous to kill the weed seeds and hibernating insects and disease organisms by exposing them to the heat of summer. Initial ploughing should be carried out at optimum moisture range to get good tilt and should avoid when moisture is in excess. Number and depth of ploughings depends on weed intensity. For rainy season crop, with onset of rains in May-June, the field is ploughed once or twice to obtain a good tilt. Harrowing of soil should invariably followed after each ploughing to reduce the clod size. After the initial ploughing, the subsequent ploughings and harrowing are carried out when the moisture content of the clods are reduced. The number of ploughings are to be minimized to reduce the cost of cultivation. Tillage operations should be repeated when the weed seeds are just germinated. When the soils are heavily infested with perennial weeds like Cynodon (dhub grass or Cyperus (nut grass), deep ploughing is needed.

Moisture is a critical element in good seedbed preparation and is essential for the successful establishment of the crop.


Field Preparation for Millet

The objectives of field preparation are based on the following principles:

  • Elimination and control of undesirable plants like crop volunteers and weeds to reduce competition with the established main crop;
  • Provide favourable conditions for sowing, allowing germination, emergence and good plant development;
  • Maintenance of fertility and productivity over the long term by preserving the soil organic matter and avoiding erosion;
  • Of organic and agricultural residues. Breaking of hard pans or compacted layers to increase water infiltration through the soil whilst avoiding erosion;
  • Facilitating mixing of fertilizers, lime, or agro-chemical products into the soil;
  • Incorporation


Field preparation depends on the system of pearl millet sowing. Three systems of pearl millet sowing are followed:

  • Sowing on a flat surface
  • Using ridge-and-furrow system
  • On a broad bed-and-furrow system.

Chain attached to a wooden frame of a plough to level the land









If sowing is done on a flat surface, the land should be levelled after final ploughing using bullock-drawn or tractor-drawn levellers.



Tractor drawn Ridger




Ridge and Furrows

In ridge and furrow system, ridges are made using either tractor drawn or animal drawn ridge ploughs.








Broad beds and furrows are prepared by an animal- drawn ridger (Fig.), mounted on a tool carrier (e.g., Tropicultor or Agribar), or by tractor-drawn implements with ridgers.



Two ridgers may be fastened on a tool bar so that the top of the bed is 1.2 m wide and the distance from the centre of one furrow to the centre of the next furrow is 1.5 m. The depth of furrows should be 15 cm or more.

After forming the broad bed and furrows, the top of the beds is smoothened and levelled using a chain attached to a wooden frame of a plough (Fig. 1) or wooden-frame leveller mounted on to a tool bar (Fig. 2).





The broadbed-and-furrow system has many advantages over flat sowing. They are:

  • helps in draining off excess water in the field and soil;
  • provides more soil aeration for plant growth;
  • greater in-situ moisture conservation;
  • easier for weeding and mechanical harvesting.


Table 1. Millet varieties
Millet type Botanical name Main
Sowing rate
( kg/ha)
Approx. days to flower Days to harvest maturity Leaf blast
French millets Panicum milliaceum Awa Orange S
White French Cream-white 8-10 70 90-100 S
Dwarf setaria
Setaria italica Panicum Red Straw 6 50 80 S
Red Panicum Red-straw 6 55 90-100 S
Panorama Red-straw 6 60 90-100 MR
Japanese millets Echinochloa esculenta Japanese Grey/brown 8-10 60 100 R
Shirohie Grey/ white 8-10 70 100 R
Pearl millets Pennisetum glaucum Open pollinated Cream 4 – 5 n/a R
Hybrid Pearl Cream 3-5 n/a R
Siberian millets Echinochloa frumentaceae Siberian (White Panicum) White 8-10 80 n/a
Giant setaria Setaria italica Giant Setaria Yellow-straw 6 60 n/a S

Characteristics of different varieties

Millet types Variety Maturity


Grain color Yield potential


Finger Millet P224 4 Brown 10
Gulu E 4 Brown 8
KAT/FM/FM-1 3 Brown 7.5
LANET/FM-1 4 Brown 7
Pearl Millet KAT/PM-1 2.5-3 Grey 12
KAT/PRO-1 2.5-3 Grey 10
Proso Millet KAT/PRO-1 2.5 Cream 8
Fox tail Millet KAT/FOX-1 3-4 Yellow cream 8

Varieties in Kenya

A lot of work has been done to identify improved varieties of millet to be grown under different ecological zones of Kenya.
Some recommended varieties of finger millets and their characteristics (Kenya)

Variety Optimal production altitude
Grain colour Potential grain yield
(90 kg bags/acre)
Special attributes
“P 224” 1150-1750 3-4 Brown 10 Tolerant to lodging and blast
“Gulu E” 250-1500 4 Brown 8
“KAT/FMI” 250-1150 3 Brown 7 Drought tolerant. Tolerant to blast. High in calcium
“Lanet/FM1” 1750-2300 5-7 Brown 7 Tolerant to cold and drought
  • “SEREMI 3”



Some recommended varieties of pearl millets and their characteristics (Kenya)




Pearl millet


Variety Optimal production altitude
Grain colour Potential grain yield
(90 kg bags/acre)
Special attributes
“KAT/PM1” 250-1150 2-3 Grey 8 Tolerant to bird damage, leaf blight and rust
“KAT/PM2” 250-1150 2 Grey 7 Tolerant to leaf blight and rust. Grain used at dough stage
“KAT/PM3” 50-1500 2-3 Grey 10 Tolerant to leaf blight and rust

Examples of pearl millet varieties in Tanzania

  • “Okoa” (Altitude recommended: 0-1300 m; grain yield: 2.0-2.5 t/ha; grain colour: grey; days to flowering: 87-92; resistant to Striga spp.; tolerant to ergot)
  • “Shibe” (Altitude recommended: 0-1200 m; grain yield: 1.8-2.0 t/ha; grain colour: grey; days to flowering: 90-95; resistant to Striga spp.)

Proso Millet

Crop Variety Optimal production altitude
Grain colour Potential grain yield
(90 kg bags/acre)
Special attributes
Prosomillet “KAT/PRO-1” 0-2000 2.5 Cream 7 Has ability to stop growing during severe water stress and to resume growth quickly when the stress is broken
Fox tail millet “KAT/FOX-1” 250-1500 3-4 Cream 8

Preparation and Planting

Both red and white proso varieties are available, and growers should choose varieties with appropriate maturities and lodging resistance. Millet should be planted after soil temperatures have warmed to about 65°F, relatively late in the season. Millet does well in warm, fertile soils; it often works well to plough and work in a manured sod in early spring. The seedbed should be very well-drained, and firm. Nitrogen inputs should be monitored to avoid lodging in millet; the best way to determine how much nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to apply is to have your soil tested prior to planting. The pH level should be at least 5.6 for good millet growth; apply lime in early spring if necessary. The typical seeding rate is 20-35 lbs per acre, and a grain drill with the seeding depth set to plant 1-3” works best; plant deeper if dry soil conditions are expected. Millet have been known to germinate even if planted at a depth of 4-5”, but shallower depths will help germination. Rolling or cult packing the soil before and after planting improves seedling emergence by increasing seed-to-soil contact. The seed can also be broadcasted (at a slightly higher seeding rate), followed by a light harrowing or packing. Millet emerges quickly in warm soil and is tolerant of moisture extremes but is extremely sensitive to frost. However, its short growing season allows for millet to be planted as late as June or possibly even July. Because millet can be planted so late in the season, it has been known to be planted as an emergency grain if another crop has failed.

Plant population

Row spacing of 18 cm are recommended at the suggested planting rates listed below:

  • White French 8-10 kg/ha
  • Panorama 6 kg/ha
  • Shirohie 8-10 kg/ha.

Establishment is normally 60%-70% in loamy soil, often lower in heavy soils or in poor seedbed conditions (crusting).

Under good soil moisture conditions planting 30mm deep is preferable. Sowing deeper than this will reduce emergence. Satisfactory seedbeds for shallow plantings are difficult to prepare on heavy clay soils. Increased seeding rates on these soils to compensate for a lower establishment may be necessary. Rolling may improve establishment, as can the use of press wheels. Press wheels should be adjusted to 4-8 kg/10 cm widths. Avoid crusting soils.



Obtaining a soil analysis, a short time before planting should indicate any major nutrient deficiency.

Nitrogen (N) : aim for 25-35 kg N/ha for grain crops. Excess nitrogen may produce tall crops that are prone to lodging. Higher rates may be justified under double-crop conditions.


On soils low in phosphorus (P) apply 5-10 kg P/ha

Soil Options
Alluvial soils or black earths Urea 60 kg/ha pre plant
Forest soils Muriate of potash 60 kg/ha preplant plus 125 kg/ha DAP at planting
Red scrub, Brigalow and grey clay CK700 100kg/ha at planting


Pest management


Weed control

Millets are fast growers and when sown broad acre will often out-compete many weeds.

Panorama millet and Panicum should not be sprayed with phenoxy-type herbicides (2,4-D, MCPA), while White French millet or Japanese millet may tolerate low rates. Growers should exercise caution and are advised to seek further information before use.  Crops should be sprayed when roots have developed and the plant has fully tiller. Spraying during stem elongation (nodes detectable) can cause severe damage. i.e. reduced growth, head deformities (tipping out), increased lodging.

Always refer to the herbicide label and MSDS sheet for current registered use patterns. These details may be subject to change.


 Disease management

Japanese and Shirohie millets have few major disease problems, while Panorama millet shows good tolerance to head blast.

A number of smuts can affect seed heads and developing grains in millets. These include:

White French Head smut (Sphacelotheca destructens)
Foxtail millets (Panorama, Panicum, and Red Panicum) Kernel smut (Ustilago crameri)
Japanese, Shirohie and Siberian millets Covered smut (Ustilago tricophora)

All these smut diseases are seed borne. Do not retain planting seed from visibly affected crops. As a precaution, consider treating planting seed with seed dressing.


Leaf and head blast (Pyricularia grisea

This affects White French millet and many of the foxtail millets (especially Panicum and Red Panicum). Panorama is classed as moderately resistant. Leaf symptoms include oval shaped spots with dark margins, sometimes joining together to produce large dead areas. Blasting causes premature senescence, with no grain production in all or parts of the head. The fungus survives on diseased crop residues as well as on some grasses. Wet weather favours infection. Later plantings are generally regarded as less susceptible to damage.


Charcoal rot

It is a soil-borne fungus disease that can cause premature dieback, and is responsible for ‘white-heads’ in the crop. Appears to be especially prevalent in the foxtail/sectarian millets.


Insect management

While serious insect pests are not generally considered a routine problem, millets should be monitored for halitosis, cutworms, armyworms, locusts, and shoot fly, which can occasionally reach damaging levels, and are controlled by the same chemicals used for other summer grain crops.

Shoot fly (Atherigona falcata) 

They lay eggs on the stem of the millet plant as it elongates (prior to head emergence). Larvae hatch and burrow into the stem, feeding on it from inside. They gradually move upwards and destroy the developing seed head. The damage only becomes obvious when the seed head fails to emerge. All millets are susceptible to shoot fly injury, although damage appears more prevalent in cultivars Shirohie and Japanese sown after December. These can occasionally reach damaging levels that warrant control. No insecticide is registered for this pest of millets in Queensland.

Armyworm (Pseudaletia convecta

Army worms are leaf feeders. Plants can tolerate the feeding damage caused by low populations but high populations may defoliate the crop.

High populations of  heliothis (Helicoverpa armigeramay warrant control.


Harvesting and Storing Seed

During late summer when day-length begins to decrease, millet plants begin to set seed. Vegetative growth slows and purple or gray seed-heads form. Under northern conditions the crop is ready to harvest by October, or about 70-90 days after sowing, when the top half of these seed-heads, or panicles, have turned brown. At this point, the lower seeds might still be in the soft dough stage but should no longer be green in color. Millet is sometimes swathed when the seed heads have turned approximately 2/3 brown and allowed to dry further in the field before combining; this practice also allows the straw to dry and makes harvesting easier. It is also possible to direct cut the millet crop with a typical grain header on the combine. Proso millet for grain should yield about 50 bushels per acre or more, depending on conditions. There is an increasing demand for millet as a cereal grain for bread and flour in the northeast. However, after the grain is harvested and threshed, it must be de-hulled for human consumption. The hulls of millet seeds are variable in colour, and can even be striped. Millet should be cleaned of weed seeds and broken kernels, then stored at no higher than 13% moisture. For human consumption, millet can be de-hulled using compressed air or impact de-hullers, and used as is or ground into flour. Millet has a bland flavour, which some describe as slightly nutty. Gene Logsdon, author of Small-Scale Grain Raising, asserts that this nutty flavour can be further brought out if the millet seeds are lightly toasted before using them.

Millet annual growth rates, 1979-94.

Area (%/yr) Yield (%/yr) Production (%/yr) Per caput production (%/yr)
Developing countries 0.3 0.4 0.6 -1.4
Africa 4.1 -0.6 3.4 0.6
Northern Africa 2.7 -2.7 -0.1 -2.6
Sudan 2.7 -2.7 -0.2 -2.5
Western Africa 4.7 -0.4 4.2 1.2
Burkina Faso 3.8 2.0 5.9 3.0
Ghana 0.7 3.0 3.7 0.4
Côte d’Ivoire 2.6 2.5 5.2 1.3
Mali 5.1 -1.0 4.0 2.3
Niger 3.9 -1.0 2.8 -1.3
Nigeria 7.7 -2.3 5.2 2.2
Senegal 0.1 1.4 1.5 -1.4
Togo 3.5 -1.5 1.9 -1.2
Central Africa 3.6 -1.3 2.3 0.0
Cameroon -6.1 3.3 -3.0 -5.8
Chad 5.4 -0.5 4.8 2.0
Eastern Africa 0.5 -0.1 0.4 -2.4
Ethiopia 1.1 0.8 1.8 -1.0
Kenya 3.7 -2.4 1.2 -2.3
Tanzania -2.0 -2.4 -4.4 -7.3
Uganda 2.3 0.5 2.8 -0.5
Zimbabwe -1.6 -2.6 -4.2 -7.2
Southern Africa 5.9 -4.5 1.1 -1.8
Asia -2.4 1.5 -0.9 -2.8
Near East -2.0 -3.1 -5.0 -7.7
Far East -2.4 1.5 -0.9 -2.7
China -6.1 1.8 -4.5 -5.8
India -1.8 2.7 0.9 -1.2
Myanmar 0.5 1.5 2.0 -0.2
Nepal 4.6 1.5 6.2 3.5
Pakistan -1.8 -1.2 -3.0 -6.3
Central America and the Caribbean 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
South America -12.5 2.3 -10.5 -12.2
Argentina -12.5 2.3 -10.5 -11.8
Developed countries -0.3 0.4 0.1 -0.9
Australia 0.6 -0.5 0.2 -1.3
United States 4.3 -0.1 4.3 3.3
CIS1 -0.6 0.2 -0.3 -2.0
World 0.3 0.4 0.7 -1.1


Until 1991, area of the former USSR.
Source: FAO

Africa is the only region where millet production is growing, having risen from 8 million to over 11 million tons between 1979-81 and 1992-94 (Table 1). Most of the increase in production, however, occurred during the first half of the 1980s and has since been sustained by area expansion, mainly in the Sahel and to a smaller extent in other countries.


For many African countries, millet yields have remained stagnant or fallen, partly because much of the expansion has been into areas with poor soils and low, erratic rainfall. Overall, millet production has grown slightly faster than population with ‘per caput production increasing by 0.6 percent per annum between 1979 and 1994. However, this situation is likely to be reversed in the near future.

In a number of countries, consumption levels of millet have been maintained only through area expansion. Even so, most millet production areas remain food-insecure. As land constraints become more severe, it is imperative that productivity of this key staple is increased to ensure at least minimal food security.


Developed countries

The only millet producer of any significance in the developed countries is the CIS. Millet production rose sharply during the 1980s as a result of large increases in productivity (from 0.63 to 0.86 t/ha between 1979-81 and 1989-91). However, subsequent developments were similar to those in China.

In the Russian Federation, for example, production levels were supported by prices unrelated to production costs and determined by production quotas set by the government. When price setting was discontinued and quotas abolished, the market collapsed. Land was shifted from millet to wheat and other grains. Millet output dropped from 2.3 million tons in 1989 to 482,000 tons in 1994.

Kazhakastan traditionally produced millet mainly for export to other parts of the former USSR. When this trade disappeared during the early 1990s, following declining demand, production fell from 1.0 million tons to 300,000 tons per annum.

Production constraints

Millet production in the developing world, particularly in Africa, suffers from a number of constraints – poor soil fertility, low and erratic rainfall, high temperatures, widespread Striga infestation, downy mildew disease and loss of grain to birds.

Population pressures have led to a shortening of fallow periods, which in turn has accelerated the decline in soil fertility. These processes have also prompted the expansion of millet into more marginal lands. The impact is evident in the declining yields of millet in the major producing countries in Africa (Niger, Mali, Nigeria) over the past 15 years. Similar trends are also evident in the harsher millet production environments in Asia (e.g., western Rajasthan in India).


In addition, millets are cultivated on small, fragmented production units and are often intercropped (usually with legumes and sometimes with sorghum or maize).

Unreliable precipitation tends to keep the use of inputs such as chemical fertilizer, pesticides and hired labour to a minimum; and limited commercial demand depresses the incentive to use purchased inputs.


Crop improvement is generally more difficult in millet than in most other crops, largely because of the nature of the environment in which they are grown (see section on Technological Change). National millet improvement programmes began much later and remained weaker than those for many other crops.


Budgets for millet breeding research are low in most countries. Moreover, almost no experience has been acquired on millet breeding in developed countries that could be transferred to developing countries, as has been done for wheat and maize. Among the different types of millet only pearl millet, and to a small extent finger millet, has so far been researched at the international level. Where new technologies for crop and resource management have been developed, adoption has been poor, partly because of inadequate extension, but, equally, because farmers in harsh environments are generally more risk-averse than their counterparts in more favourable environments. The returns from investing labour and capital in millet production may be lower than the gains derivable from such investments in other farm and non-farm enterprises. Further, many new technologies may not be properly tailored to farmers’ severely resource-constrained circumstances.

Varietal improvement

Hybrid breeding programmes have traditionally targeted the relatively better environments, although even these environments are harsher than those for most other crops. Hybrid grain cultivars have been developed for pearl millet in India and the United

States, but perform best in areas where rainfall is reliable. In drier areas with more erratic rainfall, it is far more difficult and time-consuming for breeders to identify dual-purpose grain/stover combinations that are superior across a range of growing conditions. For these areas, crop breeders have concentrated on developing open-pollinated varieties that give stable grain and straw yields and suit the prevailing rainfall pattern, rather than on attempting to maximize yield potential under more favourable conditions.

Grain yields of improved cultivars grown with low to moderate inputs can exceed those of local landraces by about 20 percent; an even more important advantage is that they often mature earlier, and thus perform better under terminal drought stress. However, the adoption of improved varieties remains poor outside a few countries, such as China (foxtail millet), the CIS (proso millet), India (pearl millet) and the United States (proso, foxtail and pearl millets). For example, in Niger, the world’s fourth largest producer, improved varieties account for only 5 percent of the millet area, in part because the seed multiplication and distribution system is inadequate.



Although millet represents less than 2 percent of world cereal utilization, it is an important staple in a large number of countries in the semi-arid tropics, where low precipitation and poor soils limit the cultivation of other major food crops.


Millet utilization is mostly confined to the developing countries, even more so after production and utilization fell sharply in the CIS, the largest producer in the developed world. Accurate data are not available for most countries, but it is estimated that about 80 percent of the world’s millet (and over 95 percent in Asia and Africa) is used as food, the remainder being divided between feed (7 percent), other uses (seed, beer, etc.,) and waste.


Millet utilization by type, region and selected countries, 1992-94 average.

Direct food
(‘000 tons)
(‘000 tons)
Other uses1
(‘000 tons)
(‘000 tons)
Per caput food use (kg/yr)
Developing countries 21776 966 3767 26509 5.08
Africa 8673 187 2328 11188 13.40
Burkina Faso 683 2 126 811 68.52
Chad 217 0 41 258 33.73
Ethiopia 108 0 153 260 1.97
Mali 658 3 119 781 74.63
Niger 1440 17 259 1716 162.45
Nigeria 3315 100 1155 4570 31.50
Senegal 505 5 83 593 61.61
Sudan 364 20 76 460 14.14
Tanzania 177 2 53 233 6.41
Uganda 517 20 95 633 25.93
Asia 13103 748 1433 15284 4.17
China 3277 327 257 3861 2.74
India 9216 283 1100 10599 10.23
Central America and the Caribbean 0 0 0 0 0.00
South America 0 31 6 37 0.00
Developed countries 513 970 323 1805 0.40
North America 0 180 0 180 0.00
Europe 0 4 1 5 0.00
CIS 504 736 316 1555 1.73
Oceania 0 1 0 1 0.00
World 22289 1936 4090 28314 4.00

For seed, manufacturing purposes and waste.
Source: FAO

Food use

Per caput food consumption of millet varies greatly between countries; it is highest in Africa, where millet is a key food staple in the drier regions. Millet represents about 75 percent of total cereal food consumption in Niger and over 30 percent in most other countries in the Sahel. It is also important in Namibia (25 percent of total cereal food consumption) and Uganda (20 percent).


Outside Africa, millet food consumption is important in parts of India, China and Myanmar. Utilization is negligible in Latin America, the Caribbean and all the developed countries. The exception was the former USSR until the late 1980s. However, under the economic transition process and the removal of price subsidies, utilization in the USSR/CIS fell sharply.

Millet is a high-energy, nutritious food, especially recommended for children, convalescents and the elderly. Several food preparations are made from millet, which differ between countries and even between different parts of a country. These consist primarily of porridge or pancake-like flat bread. However, because wholemeal quickly goes rancid, millet flour (prepared by pounding or milling) can be stored only for short periods.

Millet is traditionally pounded in a mortar, but mechanical dehulling and milling are increasingly used since they eliminate a considerable amount of hard labour and generally improve the quality of the flour.


Worldwide, millet food consumption has grown only marginally over the past 30 years, while total food use of all cereals has almost doubled. Millet is nutritionally equivalent or superior to other cereals2. However, consumer demand has fallen because of a number of factors, including changing preferences in favour of wheat and rice (cheap imports are available in several countries), irregular supplies of millet, rising incomes and rapid urbanization. Particularly in urban environments, the opportunity cost of women’s time has encouraged the shift from millet to readily available processed foods (milled rice, wheat flour, etc.,) that are far quicker and more convenient to prepare.


Protein contents in pearl, proso and foxtail millets are comparable with those in wheat, barley and maize. Finger millet has a slightly lower protein content, but is in fact nutrition-ally superior because the protein quality is generally as good or better than in other cereals. Finger millet is also high in calcium and iron, and contains fairly high levels of methionine, a major limiting amino acid in many tropical cereals.]


Animal feed

Utilization of millet grain as animal feed is not significant. It is estimated that less than 2 million tons, (about 7 percent of total utilization), is fed to animals, compared with about 30 million tons of sorghum (almost half of total output). In the developing countries, use of millet grain for animal feed is concentrated in Asia; very little is fed in Africa. However, millet fodder and stover are a valuable and critical resource in the crop/livestock systems where millet is grown.


Feed use estimates are heavily influenced by assumptions made for China, the world’s third largest producer. In fact, little reliable information is available on feed use in this country. Based on very rough calculations of feed use in the CIS, it is estimated that about 1.0 million tons per annum are currently used as animal feed in the developed countries (Table 3). Western Europe, North America and Japan together use slightly over 200,000 tons, almost exclusively as bird seed. Recent increases in the use of pearl millet as a lower-cost substitute for maize feed in aquaculture and dairy and poultry farming in India and the southeastern United States are not well documented, and, in any case, at the moment represent only a small fraction of overall feed grain utilization.


Feeding trials have shown that pearl millet grain compares favourably with maize and sorghum as a high-energy, high-protein ingredient in feed for poultry, pigs, cattle and sheep. Nevertheless, very little millet is used as feed. First, as millet is grown mostly on marginal lands and production is barely sufficient to satisfy food requirements, little surplus is left for animal feed. Second, millet production fluctuates widely from year to year because of rainfall variability and drought in the main production areas. This deters a closer integration of millet production with intensive livestock operations. Third, millet yields are generally lower than those of other crops produced commercially in more favourable environments. Thus, production and transport costs are often prohibitive compared to alternative ingredients of compound feeds.


Other uses

There are few other uses of millet. Small quantities of finger millet are used in Zimbabwe for commercial brewing and opaque beer. Food technologists have experimented with the incorporation of pearl millet into composite flour, but the commercial application of this technology is limited.


International trade, market prices and stocks

Global trade in millet is estimated to range between 200,000 and 300,000 tons (Table 4a and b), representing roughly 0.1 percent of world trade in cereals or 1.0 percent of world millet production. The major exporters are India, the United States, Argentina and China, which together supply about two-thirds of recorded exports. A sizeable proportion (about 100,000 tons) of the recorded international trade is in proso millet, exported by the United States, Argentina and Australia to other developed countries. Another 60,000 tons are pearl millet exports by India. In recent years, China has started to export some quantities of foxtail millet.

The magnitude of officially recorded trade has marginally declined over the past 20-30 years, and there has been a slight change in direction. Imports by developed countries have tended to decrease over the past two decades, while those by the developing countries remained steady through the 1960s, rose during the 1970s, but fell thereafter, having been replaced by rising imports of wheat and rice. Developed countries now account for an estimated 70 percent of recorded world imports, compared with about 50 percent during the early 1960s.


Millet recorded international trade: exports.

Exports 1979-81
(‘000 tons)
(‘000 tons)
(‘000 tons)
Africa 57.9 26.4 20.2
Mali 0.02 15.0 18.0
Niger 36.7 0.1 0.0
Sudan 2.1 1.3 0.0
Asia 12.0 16.8 84.6
China 8.7 4.6 21.6
India 0.0 7.0 58.5
North, Central and South America, and the Carribean 145.9 119.1 90.3
Argentina 112.9 41.0 42.9
United States 33.0 75.5 45.5
Europe 20.5 33.0 43.7
EC (12 countries)3 15.6 22.6 28.3
Hungary 4.4 6.9 13.0
Oceania 14.6 13.6 16.3
Australia 14.6 13.6 16.3
World 250.9 208.7 255.0
Developing countries 181.9 84.0 147.4
Developed countries 69.0 124.7 107.6

Each figure is a 3-year average for the respective period, e.g., 1979-81.

Shown as zero for trade less than 50 tons.

Including intra-trade among member countries.
Source: FAO


Millet recorded international trade: imports.

Imports 1979-81
(‘000 tons)
(‘000 tons)
(‘000 tons)
Africa 82.0 7.9 40.9
Angola 0.02 0.0 21.7
Côte d’Ivoire 0.0 2.6 1.2
Gabon 0.0 0.0 0.1
Mauritania 1.0 0.0 0.0
Mali 40.0 0.0 0.5
Niger 8.0 2.4 0.5
Nigeria 26.7 0.5 0.0
Senegal 0.0 2.1 15.0
Sudan 0.0 0.0 0.3
Zimbabwe 0.2 0.0 0.3
Asia 58.9 40.3 44.3
Japan 53.1 23.7 20.3
Kuwait 1.1 0.3 0.5
Malaysia 0.7 2.1 2.4
Saudi Arabia 1.4 1.5 2.8
Singapore 0.4 1.1 0.7
Thailand 0.8 1.7 1.8
North, Central and South America and the Caribbean 4.0 26.2 18.1
Brazil 3.8 3.7 5.8
Canada 0.0 5.9 8.2
Europe 145.7 145.5 155.4
Austria 2.3 1.2 0.8
EC (12 countries)3 114.9 131.5 145.2
Switzerland 26.0 9.2 8.2
Oceania 0.8 0.8 5.7
World 291.4 220.8 264.3
Developing countries 90.5 43.8 75.4
Developed countries 201.0 177.0 188.8
  • Each figure is a 3-year average for the respective period, e.g., 1979-81.
  • Shown as zero for trade less than 50 tons.
  • Including intra-trade among member countries.

Source: FAO

Note: The discrepancies between imports and exports are largely because some exporting countries do not report millet sales at all, or include them under “other cereals”.


International trade in millet is controlled by a few specialized trading companies and generally conducted on a sample basis. Only Argentina is reported to have established official export quality standards. International prices are highly volatile, determined largely by supply volumes, and are usually unrelated to those of other major coarse grains such as maize, sorghum or barley. Quotations are not regularly published or recorded according to official statistics. Table below therefore compares export prices for millet in Argentina, Australia and the United States. The high degree of price variability among suppliers, even in the same year, is due to the “thin” market, with small trade volumes and very few buyers and sellers.

International quotations are published in the Public Ledger, London, for UK imports and in STAT (Stat Publishing, Blaine, WA 98230, BC, Canada) for Argentine and US exports.]

Since millet yields in the major exporting countries are substantially lower than for other cereals, and taking into consideration the opportunity cost of growing millet rather than other crops, prices have to be considerably higher to make cultivation remunerative. As a result, prices are generally higher than those of other grains, except in India, where millet and sorghum prices are roughly equal. These prices discourage the use of millet in compound feed. Only on rare occasions when prices are extremely low is millet used as a substitute for sorghum or maize in feed formulations.

Average annual export prices for millet.

Year Argentina (US$/ton) United States (US$/ton) Australia (US$/ton)
1979-81 average 129 186 224
1983 147 175 251
1984 166 176 254
1985 107 171 210
1986 139 151 195
1987 108 154 162
1988 123 173 110
1989 190 177 249
1990 143 188 318
1991 107 156 249
1992 114 170 249
1993 156 223 245
1994 228 254 325

Source: FAO


World millet stocks, currently estimated at 3.0 million tons, are relatively unimportant in the global cereal context. They represent only 1.0 percent of world cereal carryover stocks. Most non-commercial stocks are held by farmers (but not officially recorded) in developing countries for household consumption, seed and limited trading on local markets. Such stocks, while critical in terms of food security at household or local level, are not significant in terms of global trade.


Most millets have excellent storage properties and can be kept for up to 4-5 years even in simple storage facilities, such as traditional granaries. This is because the seeds are protected from insect attack by the hard hull covering the endosperm, and because grain is usually harvested and stored in dry weather conditions. Thus, although there may be large year-to-year variations in production, stocks can easily be built up after favourable years.

Processing Technologies for Finger Millet



Generally, finger millet is pulverized to flour for preparation of food products. First it is cleaned to remove foreign materials such as stones, chaffs, stalks etc. then passed through abrasive or friction mills to separate out glumes (non-edible cellulosic tissue) and then pulverized. Normally it is pulverized in stone mill or iron disc or emery coated disc mills. Sometimes pearling or decortications are used to dehusk the finger millet grain; it results in pulverization of both the seed coat and endosperm. Hence finger millet is invariably pulverized along with seed to prepare whole meal. Centrifugal sheller can also be used to dehull/decorticate the small millets.



This is a very recent process developed for finger millet. It is also known as debranning. This method is used for debranning of all cereals, but it is not effective for finger millet owing to its seed coat intactly attached to fragile endosperm. However hydrothermal processing is used to decorticate finger millet this involves (hydration, steaming and drying) which hardens the endosperm of grain and enables it to withstand mechanical impact. The decorticated finger millet could be cooked as such as rice is cooked.



Popping is one of the traditional methods to prepare popped finger millet flour. In this process millet is mixed with 3-5% additional water to raise the moisture content tempered for 2-4 hrs. and then popped by high temperature and short time (HTST) treatment by agitation in sand to about 230°C.This process results in development of highly desirable aroma because of Millard reaction between sugars and amino acids. Popped finger millet is a precooked ready to eat product. Also it can be pulverized and mixed with protein rich sources to prepare ready nutritious supplementary food. However, popping contaminates the product with particles of sand which is used as a heat transfer media and thus affects its eating quality. To overcome this drawback air popping in a suitable mechanical device has been successfully explored. But this method lacks the characteristics aroma compared to that using sand. Popped finger millet can be prepared at household community or at industrial level.



Malting of finger millet is commonly practiced for specialty foods. During this process bioavailability of proteins, carbohydrates and minerals are enhanced. Some B-group vitamins are synthesized and concentration of anti-nutritional factors is also reduced. Malting involves soaking of viable seeds in water to hydrate and to facilitate sprouting. These sprouts are then kiln dried. Finally, the rootlets are separated from the grain manually by rubbing with hand. All these operations influence the quality of malt. Seed germination is most important step because during this process the hydrolytic enzymes are developed these cause endosperm modification and increases nutritional properties. Malting of finger millet has been successfully utilized for developing various health foods such as infant food, weaning food, milk based beverages and confectionary products.–a-mini-review-2157-7110-1000593.php?aid=74355




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