Is poor man’s cereal burning a hole in our pockets?

Yes, what we used to call “Poor man’s food” because of its low cost of production is becoming unaffordable to a common middle class man nowadays. We are talking about MILLETS. Millets have gained a huge popularity in recent years; they had a makeover of names from coarse grains to Nutri Cereals. Though there is a difference in the name and people’s perception there is nothing that has changed about millets in terms of quality or cost of production. We still cultivate them in the same way that our great grandfathers did. Then why is there a sudden hike in their market prices?

The pricing pattern here has become identical with that of branded items. When we purchase a branded item we of course pay for the quality but the brands sell for a price much higher than that required to manufacture it. They tend to cash the popularity of the brand for extra profits. The same thing is happening with pricing of millets and millet products.

Millets are very easy to produce as they don’t require fertile lands, continuous irrigations, any pesticides or special fertilizers. Therefore the cost of production of all the millets is as less as Rs.5-6/kg. But the cost at which we buy them in the market ranges from Rs.60-250/kg for major millets like Bajra, Jowar, Ragi and Rs.>100/- for minor millets. These prices are for grains alone, the processed goods like baked cookies, dried papads and extruded products like noodles cost even more as they are said to be made from millets. But they are made of refined flour and sugars as primary ingredients and millet flour as secondary ingredients. And we end up paying extra for millet goods than other processed foods. 

Of course millets are gluten free, fibre rich, with essential minerals and fatty acids but are they worth paying 10 times of the cost of production just for primary processing in mills, transport and packaging? Is health coming at an unaffordable cost? These questions can be answered only by agricultural marketing companies who tend to take advantage of the nutritional aspects of the products and sell them at higher costs.

Processed goods (for representation purpose only)

As of now millets are produced naturally without much input requirement but if the hype continues and the demand increases it will lead to requirement of hybridization and intensification of millet production which may decrease the nutritional quality subsequently. But consumers will still believe that millets are more nutritious. Therefore, awareness in consumption is required here more than anything else.

Author,  Sahithi Reddy, graduated with B.Sc Agriculture from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. She is passionate about two things, science and travel. Aspire to be a top scientist and travel the whole world.