The United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) organized a workshop on the sensitization of fortified rice in Lucknow on 10th August. Arun Kumar, Additional Commissioner, Food & Supplies Department, addressed the media during the workshop and informed that fortified rice is being rolled out in the state as part of the Government of India’s vision to reduce anemia and micronutrient deficiencies through the food safety net schemes such as AYY (Antyodaya Ann Yojana), TPDS (Targeted Population Distribution System), PM-POSHAN and ICDS.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), food fortification is one of the widely accepted food-based strategies to address anaemia and micronutrient deficiencies, the others being dietary diversification and micronutrient supplementation. Food fortification is scientific, evidence-based and globally accepted as one of the top three priorities for developing countries (Copenhagen Consensus Statement, 2008). Large-scale staple food fortification is mandatory in several countries around the world.
Fortified rice offers a huge potential to improve the anaemia situation in the state, (more than 50% prevalence among women and children) especially if provided through the food safety net schemes. According to a paper published in 2003 (Food Policy), India loses 0.9% of its gross domestic product (GDP) due to iron-deficiency anemia. Fortified rice contains iron, folic acid and Vitamin B-12, which play a key role in the formation of red blood cells. Fortified rice is produced in the rice mills during the milling process by adding 1% Fortified Rice Kernels (FRKs) to 99% commonly consumed milled rice.
Earlier in April, Govt. of India approved the distribution of fortified rice in a phased manner through the food safety net schemes, at an annual incremental cost of Rs 2,700 crore, to be borne by the central government as part of its food subsidy till full implementation of fortified rice distribution scheme up to June-2024. Uttar Pradesh in this regard has already started distribution of fortified rice under its food safety net schemes, currently reaching 30 districts through the PDS scheme.
Community awareness and sensitization is a key factor for the successful implementation of fortified rice distribution. As part of the community sensitization, UNWFP recently completed a three-month campaign to sensitize the community, frontline workers, mid-day meal cooks, parents, teachers and community influencers like gram pradhans for creating awareness on fortified rice and dispel misconceptions like ‘plastic rice’. It was also highlighted that fortified rice is exactly the same as normal rice in terms of taste, appearance, colour and cooking method. Most importantly, the consumption of fortified rice doesn’t require any behaviour change on the part of the community.
Siddharth Waghulkar, Deputy Head, Nutrition and School Feeding Unit, UNWFP, provided an introduction to the process of rice fortification and the potential implications for malnutrition reduction. Niranjan Bariyar, Program Policy Officer (Nutrition) at UNWFP, spoke about the basic myths and misconceptions prevalent in the community around fortified rice and how the campaign tackled these. Mayank Bhushan, Senior Program Associate, Food Fortification, UNWFP, demonstrated videos related to fortified rice. “Rice-Kheer”, a sweet recipe prepared using fortified rice, was also provided to the participants who attended the workshop.
Ram Shri Harsha, AGM, Quality Control, RO Office, Food Corporation of India said, “FCI is in the process of procuring fortified rice. Rice Fortification was launched in January 2021 by the UP CM Yogi Adityanath in Chandauli district of the state. In the Kharif marketing season 2021, 58203 MT of fortified rice was procured from only Chandauli and Varanasi regions. In the KMS year, 2021-22 procurement of fortified rice was done from 14 districts totalling 5.75 lakh MT, additionally, the state procured 5.77 lakh MT of fortified rice from Punjab and Haryana to cater to the demand of ICDS MDN and PDS shops.”