Fortified Rice through Welfare Schemes

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    • Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs accorded its approval for supply of fortified rice across  government schemes .

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    • The following three phases are envisaged for full implementation of the initiative:
      • Phase-I: Covering ICDS and PM POSHAN in India all over by March, 2022 which is under implementation.
      • Phase-II: Phase I above plus TPDS and OWS in all Aspirational and High Burden Districts on stunting (total 291 districts) by March 2023.
      • Phase-Ill: Phase II above plus covering the remaining districts of the country by March 2024.
    • The FCI and State Agencies are already engaged in procurement of fortified rice and so far nearly 88.65 LMT of fortified rice has been procured for the supply and distribution.
    • The entire cost of rice fortification (around Rs. 2,700 crore per annum) would be borne by the Government  of India as part of food subsidy till its full implementation upto June, 2024.
    • Objectives: 
    • It aims to provide nutrition to every poor person of the country to overcome malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients in women, children, lactating mothers etc. as it poses major obstacles in their development.

    What is Rice Fortification?

    • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) defines fortification as “deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients in a food so as to improve the nutritional quality of food and to provide public health benefit with minimal risk to health”.
    • In other words, rice fortification is a process of adding micronutrients to regular rice. 
      • The micronutrients are added keeping in mind dietary requirements.
    • It involves grinding broken rice into powder, mixing it with nutrients, and then shaping it into rice-like kernels using an extrusion process. 
    • These fortified kernels are then mixed with normal rice in a 1:100 ratio and distributed for consumption. 
    • The fortified Rice generally contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc.
    • Availability of Technologies 
      • Various technologies are available for rice fortification, such as coating and dusting. 
      • For rice fortification in India, ‘extrusion’ is considered to be the best technology. 
        • This involves the production of fortified rice kernels (FRKs) from a mixture using an extruder machine.

    Image Courtesy: TH

    Why does rice have to be fortified in the first place?

    • India has very high levels of malnutrition among women and children. According to the Food Ministry, every second woman in the country is anaemic and every third child is stunted.
    • Fortification of food is considered to be one of the most suitable methods to combat malnutrition. 
      • Rice is one of India’s staple foods, consumed by about two-thirds of the population. Per capita rice consumption in India is 6.8 kg per month. Therefore, fortifying rice with micronutrients is an option to supplement the diet of the poor.
    • Fortified rice will be packed in jute bags with the logo (‘+F’) and the line “Fortified with Iron, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12”.

    Advantages 

    • Eliminate malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies.
    • Provides extra nutrition at affordable costs.
    • Safe: Fortification is a safe method of improving nutrition among people. The addition of micronutrients to food does not pose a health risk to people.
    • Socio-culturally acceptable way: It does not require any changes in the food habits and patterns of people. It is a socio-culturally acceptable way to deliver nutrients to people.
    • Cost-effective: Food fortification is a cost-effective strategy to improve the nutrition status of populations and it is associated with high economic benefits.
      • It requires an initial investment to purchase both the equipment and the vitamin and mineral premix, but overall costs of fortification are extremely low.

    Disadvantages 

    • Low coverage: Only a handful of nutrients are added in the process of fortification. 
    • Other nutritional deficiencies remain untreated by the process.
    • Fail to reach the poorest segments of society: Many times, fortified food products fail to reach the poorest segments of society, who are among the worst section affected with nutritional deficiencies.
      • Low purchasing power and a weak distribution channel are responsible for this problem.
    • Fortified foods could lead to a nutritional overdose.

    Initiatives were taken by India in this direction 

    • The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution had launched a centrally sponsored pilot scheme on “Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under Public Distribution System (PDS)” for a period of three years beginning 2019-20 with a total budget outlay of Rs.174.64 crore.
      • The pilot scheme focuses on 15 districts in 15 states– Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh.
    • Under the scheme, the blending of rice is done at the milling stage. 
    • The Scheme is funded by the Government of India 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: In the Union Budget 2021-22, the Union Finance Minister had announced Mission Poshan 2.0.
      • The supplementary nutrition programme and the Poshan Abhiyaan has been merged to launch Mission Poshan 2.0 to strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach, and outcome.

    Source:IE