Lucknow: The United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) in partnership with New Concept Information Systems organized a Workshop for sensitization of media representatives on fortified rice in Lucknow on 10th August. Shri Arun Kumar, Additional Commissioner, Food & Supplies Department, Government of Uttar Pradesh, addressed the media during the Workshop. He 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, 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. Anaemia is a condition in which, the normal oxygen carrying capacity of blood is reduced, due to reduced red blood cells leading to signs such as weakness, fatigue, insomnia, headache, nausea, which in the longer term can lead irreversible forms of malnutrition. According to a paper published in 2003 (Food Policy), India loses 0.9% of its gross domestic product (GDP) due to iron-deficiency anaemia. Fortified rice contains iron, folic acid and Vitamin B-12, which play a key role in 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.
In a recent development (April-2022), Govt. of India has approved distribution of fortified rice in a phased manner through the food safety net schemes, at an annual incremental cost of INR 2700 Cr., to be borne by the central government as part of its food subsidy till full implementation of fortified rice distribution scheme up to Jun-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 successful implementation of fortified rice distribution. As part of the community sensitization, UNWFP recently completed a three month campaign to sensitize 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, consumption of fortified rice doesn’t require any behaviour change on the part of the community.
The workshop was a platform to share information about fortified rice with the media and create further awareness on the importance of tackling anaemia and malnutrition, not just in Uttar Pradesh, but across the country. Dr. 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.
Mr. 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. Mr. Mayank Bhushan, Senior Program Associate, Food Fortification, UNWFP, demonstrated videos related fortified rice. “Rice-Kheer”, a sweet recipe prepared using fortified rice was also provided to the participants who attended the workshop.
Shri Arun Kumar congratulated WFP on the success of the campaign and expressed hope that more such initiatives are continued in the future in order to contribute towards malnutrition and anemia free Uttar Pradesh.
Mr Ram Shri Harsha, AGM, Quality Control, RO Office, Food Corporation of India said, “FCI is in the process procuring fortified rice. Rice Fortification was launched in January 2021 by the Honorable UP CM Yogi Adityanath in Chanduali district of the state. In the Kharif marketing seasons 2021, 58203 MT of fortified rice was procured from only Chandauli and Varanasi region. In the KMS year 2021-22 procurement of fortified rice was done from 14 districts totaling to 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.”