The four-day strike by rice millers will be called off tomorrow after the Centre has conceded to the request of the Punjab Government and agreed to change the testing protocol of fortified rice kernels (FRK).
The millers proceeded on a strike on October 13 to protest the rejection of their FRK-blended rice given to the FCI and refused to accept the procured paddy for its shelling. As a result, mandis had been choked as arrivals were peaking and lifting from the mandis had remained minimal. More than 65% of paddy purchased till date is lying in the mandis. Ranjit Singh Josan of the Punjab Rice Industries Association confirmed that the strike would be called off tomorrow.
Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, Secretary, Food and Supply, told The Tribune that they had received a letter from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, informing them that it will revisit the testing protocol.
“We have been informed that the issues related to common sampling, time taken for test results after collection of legal samples, the range of fortificants among others will be comprehensively reviewed in consultation with all stakeholders, including the select state government representatives, rice millers, the FSSAI and the FCI,” he said. The new testing protocols will be ready in two months, it is learnt.
The state government had raised the issue of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India taking note that only some of the certificates of analyses issued by FRK manufacturers contain expiry date. Further, since the quantum of procurement of fortified rice (rice blended with FRK) is much more than that of annual requirement, a bulk quantity remain in storage beyond one year period, and there is no specific procedure to determine the shelf life of FRK-blended rice. As a result, there was need to revise the testing and standards protocol and it would be wrong to punish the millers for the poor nutritional value in the fortified rice.