Director-General QU Dongyu

INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF MILLETS 2023 Closing Ceremony Statement

by Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General



Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Closing Ceremony of the International Year of Millets, which marks the end of a significant journey, and the start of an important future for millets. 

Millets in Chinese means small rice, and the crop originated in China 8000 years ago and spread across the region to the rest of the world.

This International Year has helped us rediscover the many reasons these crops should be in our fields, in our markets, and on our tables for the benefit of all - for our food and our health.

Millets are small in size, but big in impact. It is a resilient crop, especially water resilient, to combat climate change. This is the nature of the genetic potential of the crop.

At FAO, we strongly advocate for and support Members for the transformation of global agrifood systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient, and more sustainable.

This includes unlocking the untapped potential of crops such as millets. Many years ago, FAO used the term “under-utilized crop”, but now we refer to the many different species of a crop.

Increasing the cultivation of millets in our fields is one tangible way of doing this. 

Millets can be commercially grown in many countries that are reliant on the imports of wheat and other cereal grains – offering a highly nutritious alternative to these staple grains. 

They also have a remarkable ability to withstand drought, heat, and poor soil fertility, making them more resilient to climate and natural resources pressures – biotic stress.

They are incredibly diverse and can grow in different conditions, including in drylands, where over 2 billion people live, including the most vulnerable communities, as well as in marginal lands.

The growing global demand for nutritious and sustainable food options has created economic opportunities in markets for millet producers, processors, and traders.

Millets value chains can generate income and employment opportunities in many countries and can create social equity through decent jobs both on and off farm.

For this reason, they are used widely by smallholder farmers, especially in difficult environmental conditions. 

Furthermore, the use of innovative approaches in production systems, processing and food technologies can create new market opportunities for millets that appeal to a diverse consumer base, including youth and urban citizens.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Millets play an important role in ensuring food security, providing diverse and nutritious food options on our tables.

They are packed with minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, protein, and all the different amino acids – all of which are important for a healthy diet, especially, for example, for lactating mothers and babies. 

Millets are also gluten-free, with a low-glycaemic index, making them a viable food option for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, high-blood sugar, or diabetes.

These are just some of the benefits – the “superpowers” - of millets, which this International Year has highlighted to the world.

Dear colleagues,

The International Year of Millets 2023 may be ending officially, but our shared commitment to continue to build on the momentum of this Year is just beginning now. 

And I want to leave you with some important next steps as we go forward:

First, it is time to invest in the research and development of millets value chains – from breeding superior varieties, cultivating them sustainably, and year-round processing and marketing.

Second, I urge governments and development partners to invest in preserving the diversity of millets and nurturing their value chains. That’s why I am grateful for the collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to fully explore the genetic resources of millets. And I am pleased to have the ICRISAT Director-General with us today.

Third, I call upon our resource partners to strengthen their support to countries for the sustainable production of millets and for developing dynamic markets.

Lastly, I challenge every one of you to continue to champion millets – to promote their rich heritage and reach their full potential.

FAO will continue to work together with all partners to strengthen the Millets value chain.

A special thanks to the government of India, and other partner governments, for their commitment and collaboration to ensure the success of the International Year of Millets 2023.

Let's continue to work together in an efficient, effective, and coherent manner to sow the seeds for a sustainable future for all.

Thank you.