Rice fortification: Surefire way to improve micronutrient intake
Global market set to surpass USD$25,000 Mn
Fortification of rice is taking center stage across the world, and there is good reason for it. In 2017 the Bangladesh Ministry of Women and Children Affairs collaborated with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to implement a large scale food initiative for women living in poverty. As a result, the Bangladesh government distributed fortified rice to over 35 sub districts and in subsequent years is expected to apportion fortified rice to over 66 districts. Similarly, the WFP also joined hands with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to fully integrate fortified rice into U.S. food assistance programs. This facilitated improved supply and economies of scale for rice in food aid by capitalizing extruded fortified rice and rinse resistant coated fortified rice.
Given the availability of numerous other rice fortification initiatives across the world especially in Asia and West Africa, the projected exponential growth in global rice fortification to $25000 Mn by 2026 is hardly a surprise. According to a recent market research report, the APAC region excluding Japan is expected to emerge as the biggest market for fortified rice, followed by the Middle East and Africa, and the Americas.
But why do countries have this urge to fortify rice?
Hidden hunger? Rice to the rescue
Over two billion people around the world still suffer from hidden hunger – which is the deficit of essential micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals that are required for optimal health and wellbeing. While affecting the poverty stricken population to a greater extent, micronutrient deficiency is prevalent across all ages and socio-economic strata. In particular, women of reproductive age and children are the most affected, leading to higher incidence of maternal and infant mortality, mental retardation, illnesses, as well as suboptimal cognitive and physical development. In addition to serious consequences to health, repercussions of hidden hunger have far reaching impact on short and long term socio-economic development at the household and national level — including a negative impact on the GDP.
Did you know? White rice fortified with multiple micronutrients is more nutritious than brown, parboiled, or non-fortified white rice.
For over 90 years, supplementing food with multiple micronutrients to combat the inadequacies has proven to be a cost effective solution with high efficacy. Drawing from the success and experience of fortifying grains like wheat and maize, regulators, enterprises and non-profits are applying a similar approach to rice. With over three billion people in the world consuming rice as their staple diet, the demand for micronutrient fortification of rice is rapidly gaining ground in mandatory and non-mandatory markets.
RICE MATTERS: KEY FACTS
• Except for a few varieties, any type of rice can be fortified
• Rice fortification is safe, and since it is implemented post-harvest, multiple nutrients can be added.
• Micronutrient deficiencies can extend across all socioeconomic groups. Therefore, widespread rice
fortification has the potential to benefit all strata of society.
• Contemporary rice fortification technology has the capacity to produce fortified rice that tastes, smells
and looks the same as non-fortified rice, while conserving nutrients when prepared using various
modes of cooking.
It’s one piece of the puzzle
With Asia and Latin America taking the lead, rice fortification is rightly earning its place under the spotlight since it has great potential to minimize nutritional deficiencies. However, in the larger context of malnutrition it is only a part of an integrated approach. Since deficiencies and diet vary with region, fortification has to provide all the essential nutrients and be spread across various regularly consumed food such as milk, salt, rice, oil and wheat. This is particularly true with susceptible groups such as pre-school children, lactating mothers and pregnant women who may also require additional supplementation. To know more about essential micronutrients for children, click here