Government will supply 35 million tonne (MT) of iron fortified rice to the 800 million beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) by March 31, 2024, a food ministry official said on Tuesday.
Additionally 3.4 MT of fortified rice will be supplied to 83 million beneficiaries under the social sector programme such as Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and PM Poshan by the end of current fiscal.
Out of 660 districts which are covered under the public distribution system, 22 wheat consuming districts would be excluded from coverage under rice fortification. Fortification of rice helps increase vitamin and mineral content in diets and helps achieve nutritional security.
Annual estimated cost of `2,700 crore is anticipated for the fortified rice programme under NFSA, by 2024. The extra outlay would be part of the central government’s food subsidy budget estimated at Rs 2 trillion in FY24.
The official said that rice blended with vitamins and minerals such as iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 is being distributed across 439 districts.
At present, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state agencies have 25.3 MT of rice available for distribution through PDS
Currently the rice blending capacity is 15.6 MT per month and 18,227 mills have blending infrastructure for fortified rice.
Under the launch of the phase I of the programme to eliminate anemia implemented during 2021-22, 1.75 MT of fortified rice was distributed under ICDS and PM Poshan.
In the phase II of the programme implemented during 2022-23, 10.6 MT of fortified rice was distributed under PDS in 269 ‘aspirational and high burden’ districts under the PDS. Nearly 2.9 MT of fortified rice has been lifted by states for the ICDS and PM Poshan programme.
The cabinet committee on economic affairs in April, 2022 had approved providing fortified rice to all the beneficiaries under PDS by end of FY24.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address on the 75th Independence Day speech, in 2021, made an announcement on fortification of rice so as to provide nutrition to every poor person of the country to overcome malnutrition and lack of essential nutrients in women, children, lactating mothers etc. as it poses major obstacles in their development.
According to a food ministry official, as per an analysis of benefits of rice fortification by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, there was an estimated savings of about `49,800 crore of the expenses incurred in the health care cost annually.
This article has been republished from The Financial Express