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Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated on Sunday that by 2024, rice provided under different government schemes, including the Public Distribution System (PDS) and mid-day meals in schools, will be fortified, citing malnutrition as a “major obstacle” in the growth of women and children.

Addressing the nation on Independence Day, Modi said, “Malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients in poor women and poor children poses major obstacles in their development. In view of this, it has been decided that the government will fortify the rice given to the poor under its various schemes. Be it the rice available at ration shops or the rice provided to children in their mid-day meals, the rice available through every scheme will be fortified by year 2024.”

What is Fortification?

Fortification, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is the process of enhancing the content of an essential micronutrient, such as vitamins or minerals, in a food item in order to improve its nutritional value and give public health benefits at low cost. Food fortification is one of the tactics employed by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization to combat nutrient deficiencies on a global scale, with over 86 nations working on cereal grain fortification such as rice, wheat, and maize, among others.

What is Fortified Rice?

According to FSSAI norms, 1 kg of fortified rice will contain:

  • iron (28 mg-42.5 mg)
  • folic acid (75-125 microgram)
  • Vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram)

In addition, rice may also be fortified with micronutrients, singly or in combination, with:

  • zinc(10 mg-15 mg)
  • Vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE)
  • Vitamin B1 (1 mg-1.5 mg)
  • Vitamin B2 (1.25 mg-1.75 mg)
  • Vitamin B3 (12.5 mg-20 mg
  • Vitamin B6 (1.5 mg-2.5 mg) per kg
Why Fortified Rice?

Micronutrient deficiency is frequently undetected. It usually affects persons who display no clinical symptoms, but the repercussions are long-lasting, hence the term “hidden hunger.”

It exposes people to infectious infections, jeopardizing their physical and mental development. To address these deficits, fortification has been tried. Rice, which is grown and consumed in many regions of the world, is a viable way to ensure that fortified foods reach a large number of people. It helps tackle micronutrient deficiencies widespread in countries, which are also high consumers of rice, thereby helping vulnerable populations.

How is the Announcement Significant?

The announcement is significant because the country’s women and children suffer from severe malnutrition. Every second woman in the country is anaemic, and every third child is stunted, according to the Food Ministry. On the Global Hunger Index, India ranks 94th out of 107 countries and is classified as having “severe hunger” (GHI). Under the National Food Security Act of 2013, the government distributes about 300 lakh tonnes of rice through several initiatives. Under the NFSA, the Centre has set aside 328 lakh tonnes of rice for TPDS, MDM, and ICDS in the years 2021-22. Over one-fifth of the world’s rice is produced in India. It is also the world’s greatest rice user, consuming 6.8 kg per month per person.

Some Facts And Figures

With a total budget investment of Rs.174.64 crore, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution started a government funded pilot plan on “Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under the Public Distribution System (PDS)” for a three-year term commencing in 2019-20.

The pilot program will be implemented in 15 districts across 15 states– Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh.

Maharashtra and Gujarat, according to the Ministry, began distributing fortified rice under the PDS Pilot Scheme in February 2020.

The Government of India funds the scheme in the following proportions: 90:10 for North Eastern, hilly, and island states, and 75:25 for the rest.

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