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Independence Day 2021: Why PM Modi’s announcement on fortified rice is significant

India accounts for over one-fifth of the world’s rice production. It is also the largest consumer of rice, with a per capita rice consumption of 6.8 kilograms per month.

Written by Harikishan Sharma , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 16, 2021 11:30:52 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation during the 75th Independence Day function at the Red Fort, in New Delhi, Sunday, August 15, 2021. (PTI Photo: Kamal Singh)

Emphasising that malnutrition is a “hurdle” in the development of women and children, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday announced fortification of rice distributed under various government schemes including Public Distribution System (PDS) and Mid-Day-Meal scheme by 2024.

Addressing the nation from the Red Fort on the 75th Independence Day, Modi said, “Raashan kee dukaan par milane vaala chaaval ho, Mid-Day-Meal mein baalakon ko milane vaala chaaval ho, varsh 2024 tak har yojana ke maadhyam se milane vaala chaaval fortified kar diya jaayega. (Be it the rice distributed through ration shops or the rice provided to children in the mid-day meal, the rice available through every scheme will be fortified by the year 2024.)”

The Prime Minister said it is the government’s priority to provide nutrition to every poor person of the country. “Malnutrition is a big hurdle in the development of women and children. In view of this, it has been decided to fortify the rice distributed under the different schemes…,” the Prime Minister said.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), that sets standards for food items in the country, defines the 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.”

According to the FSSAI norms, 1 kg fortified rice shall contain iron (28mg-42.5mg), folic acid (75-125 microgram) and Vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram). In addition, rice may also be fortified with micronutrients, singly or in combination, at the level– zinc(10mg-15mg), Vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE), Vitamin B1 (1mg-1.5mg), Vitamin B2 (1.25mg-1.75mg), Vitamin B3 (12.5mg-20mg) and Vitamin B6 (1.5mg-2.5mg) per Kg.

The announcement is significant as the government distributes over 300 lakh tonnes of rice under various schemes covered under the National Food Security Act, 2013. The Centre has allocated 328 lakh tonnes of rice for TPDS, MDM and ICDS under NFSA during 2021-22.

India accounts for over one-fifth of the world’s rice production. It is also the largest consumer of rice, with a per capita rice consumption of 6.8 kilograms per month.

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. According to the Ministry, Maharashtra and Gujarat have started distribution of fortified rice under PDS in the Pilot Scheme from February, 2020.

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.

In the union Budget 2021-22, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced Mission Poshan 2.0. “To strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach, and outcome, we will merge the Supplementary Nutrition Programme and the Poshan Abhiyan and launch the Mission Poshan 2.0,” she said in her budget speech.

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