Fortified rice distributed through ration shops in 90 districts out of the targeted 291
The Food Secretary said that the government had a target of distributing 175 lt of fortified rice in 291 ambitious and high-burden districts in the second phase. Half of this has been procured. He said that the FCI had procured about 90 lt of fortified rice and about 2.20 lt had been supplied to 90 districts in 16 States during April-May.
The Centre has kick-started the phase-II distribution of fortified rice to high-burden districts. It is being done via ration shops from April 1 and so far, 90 districts have been covered out of the targeted 291. This information was shared by Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey on Monday.
The first phase was started in October 2021. Under this, fortified rice was supplied through Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman-PM POSHAN (erstwhile Mid-Day Meal Scheme).
Fortified rice is made in accordance with the standards fixed by food regulator FSSAI. It has prescribed blending rice with three micronutrients — Iron, Folic Acid and Vitamin B12.
Pandey said that the government had a target of distributing 175 lakh tonnes (lt) of fortified rice in 291 ambitious and high-burden districts in the second phase. Half of this has been procured. The Food Secretary said that the Food Corporation of India (FCI) had procured about 90 lt of fortified rice and about 2.20 lt had been supplied to 90 districts in 16 States during April-May.
He said that millers had come on board for rice fortification, as they had not only installed blenders but also upgraded their mills. The upgradation of mills is underway in states for smooth implementation of the third phase, when 350 lt of fortified rice will be distributed to the entire Public Distribution System (PDS), Pandey noted.
The Food Secretary said that the benefits of fortified rice outweighed its disadvantages. Still, all states have formed a steering committee under the Chief Secretary that will keep an eye on the entire distribution process.
S Jagannathan, joint secretary in the department of food and public distribution, said that the cost of fortification was getting reduced as the programme expanded its ambit. Currently, it is 73 paise per kg and in many states, it is about 50 paise per kg.
This move was necessary, Jagannathan said, as malnutrition costs India at least Rs 77,000 crore annually in terms of lost productivity, illness and death. The country loses about 1 per cent of GDP (Rs 2.03 lakh crore) due to iron deficiency (anaemia), he said. Every rupee spent on nutritional interventions in India could generate Rs 34.1-Rs 38.6 in public economic returns, he said.