Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15, 2021, during his Independence speech, announced rice distributed under several government schemes including the Public Distribution System (PDS) and mid-day meals (MDM) in schools will be fortified by 2024.
In his speech from the Red Fort on the 75th Independence Day, PM Modi addressed that Malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients in children and women living in poor conditions pose a major obstacle towards their development.
Significance of fortified rice in India
•The fortification of rice is a government’s countermeasure to tackle malnutrition in the country. As per the Food Ministry, fortified rice is a cost-effective strategy to increase mineral and vitamin content in diets.
•The Indian government has decided that “Rice being distributed through all government schemes will be fortified by 2024, be it the rice being sold at the ration shops, or the rice being served to children in their mid-day meals”.
•The fortification of rice in a country like India is significant. The Food Ministry states that every third child stunted and every second woman is anaemic in the country.
•As per the Global Hunger Index (GHI), India ranks 94 out of 107 countries and finds itself in the ‘serious hunger’ category.
•Fortification of rice in India is also significant in countering malnutrition as the government distributes over 300 lakh tonnes of rice through various government schemes under the National Food Security Act, 2013, to address malnutrition.
•For 2021-22, approximately 328 lakh tonnes of rice allocated by the Centre is being distributed through schemes under the National Food Security Act such as Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Mid-Day Meals (MDM), and Targeted Public Distribution System (PDS).
•India produces over one-fifth of the world’s rice. The country is also the largest consumer of rice, accounting for 6.8 kilograms per month as per capita rice consumption.
What is the Fortification of rice?
•The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) defines fortification as deliberately increase the essential micronutrients content in food to enhance its nutritional quality to offer public health benefits with minimal health risk.
•As FSSAI parameters, 1-kg fortified rice contains iron (28mg-42.5mg), Vitamin B12 (0.75-1.25 microgram) and folic acid (75-125 microgram). Additionally, per-kg rice may also be fortified to increase the micronutrients level, single or in combination such as Vitamin B6 (1.5mg-2.5mg), Vitamin B3 (12.5mg-20mg), Vitamin B2 (1.25mg-1.75mg), Vitamin B1 (1mg-1.5mg), Vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE), and zinc(10mg-15mg).
Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under PDS
•The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in 2019-20 had launched a centrally sponsored pilot scheme on ‘Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under PDS’ for three years with a budget of Rs 174.64 crores.
•The pilot scheme includes 15 districts across 15 states, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh.
•As per the Food Ministry, Gujarat and Maharashtra along with 6 states started distributing fortified rice under the PDS scheme, approximately 2.03 LMT fortified rice till June 2021. Four more states are expected to begin the distribution by September 2021.
•From April 1, 2022, the Food Ministry has proposed including 250 high-burden districts under the scheme.
•The Government of India funds the scheme in the ratio of 90:10 for the North-Eastern, Hilly, and Island regions and 75:25 for the rest.
Rice Fortification in other countries
•The Food Ministry states that seven countries in the world have mandated rice fortification including the USA, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea.