central-government-to-extend-the-fortified-rice-scheme-to-112-districts-summary

Context: In a bid to combat chronic anaemia and undernutrition, the government is making plans to distribute fortified rice through the Integrated Child Development Services and Mid-Day Meal schemes.

More on the news:

  • Children in anganwadis and government schools could soon be eating rice infused with iron, folic acid and vitamin B-12.
  • There will be a special focus on 112 aspirational districts, according to a recent statement from the Food Ministry.
  • The Food Corporation of India has now been asked to come up with a comprehensive plan to scale up the annual supply of fortified rice from the current 15,000 tonnes to at least 1.3 lakh tonnes.

Background:

  • The centrally-sponsored pilot fortification scheme was approved in February 2019, and allocated a total budget outlay of ₹174.6 crore for a three-year period from 2019-20 onwards. 
  • Implementation
    • Currently, only five States — Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh have started the distribution of fortified rice in their identified pilot districts. 
    • The remaining 10 States have only now identified their respective districts, and will soon start distribution, but less than one and a half years remain in the pilot scheme period.

Rice Fortification:

  • Fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.
  • Fortifying rice 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.

Way ahead

  • Increasing availability:
    • Currently, there are only 15,000 tonnes of these kernels available per year in the country. 
    • To cover the Public Distribution System (PDS) across the country, 3.5 lakh tonnes of fortified kernels would be needed. 

The Food Corporation of India also needs to invest in equipping rice mills with the blending machines needed to mix the kernels into normal rice.

Image Source: TH

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