India’s Union Cabinet approved a scheme to distribute fortified rice under government programmes in three phases. To address anemia and micro-nutrient deficiency among large sections of the population, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved a proposal to supply fortified rice to all beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN) and other welfare schemes by March, 2024.
FCI and state agencies have already procured 88.65 lakh tonnes of fortified rice for supply and distribution. In the first phase, fortified rice will be distributed under ICDS and PM Poshan programmes. The second phase will cover targeted public distribution system (TPDS) and other welfare schemes in all aspirational and high-burden stunting districts by March 2023. In the final phase, all remaining districts will be covered by March 2024.
The entire cost of rice fortification of about Rs 2,700 crore per annum and would be borne by the central government. According to food ministry officials, around 35 million tonne (mt) of fortified rice is required for supply grain to beneficiaries of NFSA, ICDS, PM POSHAN and other schemes annually with an estimated cost of Rs 2,700 crore. The extra outlay would be part the central government’s food subsidy budget.
Fortification of rice helps increase vitamin and mineral content in diets and helps achieving nutritional security. The government annually spends more than Rs 2 trillion for implementing NFSA. At present, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state government agencies have so far procured and distributed about 9 million tonnes (mt) of fortified rice under ICDS, PM POSHAN and the pilot scheme under PDS was being implemented since 2019-20.
Under the pilot scheme on ‘fortification of rice & its distribution under PDS’ launched in 2019-20, eleven states — Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand — have reported distribution of fortified rice in their identified districts. Till now, 4.2 lakh tonnes of fortified rice have been distributed through PDS under the pilot scheme.