Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs accorded its approval for the supply of fortified rice across government schemes. Let’s have an in-depth understanding of the entire step:
What is fortified rice?
Rice fortification is a process of adding micronutrients keeping in mind dietary requirements to regular rice. Generally, the entire process involves grinding broken rice into powder, mixing it with nutrients, and then shaping it into rice-like kernels using an extrusion process. Furthermore, mixing these fortified kernels with normal rice in a 1:100 ratio completes the entire process. Thus, making the rice so obtained fortified rice. Packaging and distribution of these kinds of rice will happen in jute bags with the logo (‘+F’). Along with this, the addition of the line “Fortified with Iron, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12”.
The fortified rice if distributed for consumption across all the government schemes will cater to the problem of malnutrition in the country.
Why this decision?
About 2/3rd of the Indian population consumes rice as their staple food. Moreover, per capita rice consumption in India is 6.8 kg per month. In spite of that, every second woman in the country is anemic, and stunting in every third child. Therefore, to solve these high levels of malnutrition among women and children, the government took this decision. Indeed, Fortifying rice with micronutrients is the best option to supplement the diet of the poor in the country today.
Benefits from this decision:
- Eliminating malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies in citizens, especially for people living below the poverty line.
- With this in mind, providing extra nutrition at affordable costs will ease the financial burden of the masses.
- The design of this entire process took into account the health safety and risk to people. Fortification is a safe method of improving nutrition among people.
- No changes in the food habits and patterns of people. In fact, delivering nutrients to people via rice is a socio-culturally acceptable way.
- In addition to all this, it is a cost-effective strategy associated with high economic benefits. Although it requires an initial investment to purchase both the equipment and the vitamin and mineral premix, the overall costs of fortification are extremely low.
Various stages/phases of this initiative:
- 2022 March: Phase I will cover the ICDS and PM POSHAN all over India.
- 2023 March: Phase II will add TPDS and OWS in all Aspirational and High Burden Districts on stunting (a total of 291 districts)
- 2024 March: Phase III will be covering the remaining districts of the country.
As a result, so far nearly 88.65 LMT of fortified rice has been procured for supply and distribution. It should be noted that the entire cost of rice fortification (around Rs. 2,700 crores per annum) would be borne by the Government of India as part of food subsidy till its full implementation up to June 2024.
Previous initiatives by the GOI to solve the problem of malnutrition in the country:
- Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under Public Distribution System (PDS)- A pilot scheme launched by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution for a period of three years beginning 2019-20 with a total budget outlay of Rs.174.64 crore. However, the scheme focused on only 15 states where the funding was in the ratio of 90:10 in respect of North Eastern, hilly, and island states and 75:25 in respect of the rest.
- Mission Poshan 2.0- By merging 2 schemes of the government i.e. the supplementary nutrition program and the Poshan Abhiyaan, Mission Poshan 2. O came into play. With the aim to strengthen nutritional content, delivery, and outreach, the Union Finance Minister announced the scheme in the Budget of 21-22.