Rice Fortification


The Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution informed the Rajya Sabha that the government approved the Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme on “Fortification of Rice & its Distribution under Public Distribution System” for a period of 3 years beginning in 2019-20 with total outlay of Rs. 174.64 Cr.


Rice fortification is a cost effective, culturally appropriate strategy to address micronutrient deficiency in countries with high per capita rice consumption. The cost of fortification is determined by a multitude of context specific variables such as the structure and capacity of the rice industry, the complexity of the supply chain, the policy and regulatory environment and the scale of the relevant programme.

As per Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, India’s rice production has increased at Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 1.43 percent during 2005-06 and 2016-17. India was the second leading rice producer followed by Indonesia and Bangladesh in 2015-16.

Fortifying rice makes it more nutritious by adding vitamins and minerals in the post – harvest phase; many of which are lost during the milling and polishing process. Rice fortification may be considered as having the highest potential to fill the gap in current staple food fortification programs as it is the staple food of 65 percent of the Indian population and reaches the most vulnerable and poorer section – with the highest uptake in the government safety net programmes .The food and civil supplies department of each state empanels a number of rice millers in each district for regular supply of rice to the FCI, from which it is distributed to the social safety net schemes.

What is fortification?

Fortification is the addition of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, Vitamin A & D to staple foods such as rice, milk and salt to improve their nutritional content. These nutrients may or may not have been originally present in the food before processing.

Need of fortification

  • According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4):
    • 58.4% of children (6-59 months) are anemic
    • 53.1% women in the reproductive age group are anemic
    • 35.7% of children under 5 are underweight
    • Also, It is estimated that 50-70% of these birth defects are preventable. One of the major causes is deficiency of Folic Acid.

Thus, fortification is necessary to address deficiency of micronutrients or micronutrient malnutrition, also known as “hidden hunger”, a serious health risk. Unfortunately, those who are economically disadvantaged do not have access to safe and nutritious food. Others either do not consume a balanced diet or lack variety in the diet because of which they do not get adequate micronutrients. Often, there is considerable loss of nutrients during the processing of food.

One of the strategies to address this problem is fortification of food. This method complements other ways to improve nutrition such as such as diversification of diet and supplementation of food.

About Rice Fortification

  • It refers to the addition of key vitamins and minerals to increase the nutritional value of rice.
  • The fortified Rice generally contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc.
  •  Methods are available for the fortification: There are several methods available for the fortification of rice and the method chosen depends on the local technology available, costs and other preferences.
    • Rice can be fortified by adding a micronutrient powder to the rice that adheres to the grains or spraying the surface of ordinary rice grains in several layers with a vitamin and mineral mix to form a protective coating. 
    • Rice can also be extruded and shaped into partially pre-cooked grain-like structures resembling rice grains, which can then be blended with natural polished rice. 
    • Rice kernels can be fortified with several micronutrients, such as iron, folic acid and other B-complex vitamins, vitamin A and zinc.
      • Rice fortification on a national scale requires a large, cost-effective and sustainable supply of fortified kernels
  • Norms of FSSAI  : According to the FSSAI norms, 1 kg fortified rice shall contain iron (28mg-42.5mg), folic acid (75-125 microgram) and Vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram). In addition, rice may also be fortified with micronutrients, singly or in combination, at the level– zinc(10mg-15mg), Vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE), Vitamin B1 (1mg-1.5mg), Vitamin B2 (1.25mg-1.75mg), Vitamin B3 (12.5mg-20mg) and Vitamin B6 (1.5mg-2.5mg) per Kg.

WHO recommendations

  • Fortification of rice with iron is recommended as a public health strategy to improve the iron status of populations, in settings where rice is a staple food.
  • Fortification of rice with vitamin A may be used as a public health strategy to improve the iron status and vitamin A nutrition of populations.
  • Fortification of rice with folic acid may be used as a public health strategy to improve the folate nutritional status of populations.

About the Rice Fortification Scheme

  • To address anemia and micro-nutrient deficiency in the country, the Government of India approved this scheme for a period of 3 years in 2019-20.
    • Under the Scheme, FCI (Food Corporation of India) has been asked to come up with a comprehensive plan for procurement and distribution of fortified rice in all the Districts of the country under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) & Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme from 2021-2022.
      • The mid-day meal scheme is now known as PM POSHAN.
    • Special focus remains on supplying fortified rice to the 112 specially identified Aspirational Districts of the country.
  • Objectives the Scheme:
    • Distribution of Fortified Rice through Public Distribution System, to cater 15 Districts in the country – preferably one district per State in the initial phase of Implementation.
    • Coverage of NFSA (National Food Security Act) beneficiaries under PDS with Fortified Rice in the selected Districts.
    • Facilitate cross learning and sharing of best practices among States/UTs and DoF&PD (Department of Food and Public Distribution).
    • To evaluate the provision, coverage and Utilization of Fortified Rice by the target population as well as the efficiency/effectiveness of the consumption of fortified rice in reducing the targeted micronutrient deficiencies in different age and gender groups.

Why the Need of Fortification:

  • India has very high levels of malnutrition among women and children. According to the Food Ministry, every second woman in the country is anemic and every third child is stunted.
  • India has slipped to 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021 of 116 countries, from its 2020 position of 94th.
  • The deficiency of micronutrients or micronutrient malnutrition, also known as “hidden hunger”, is a serious health risk.
  • Rice is one of India’s staple foods, consumed by about two-thirds of the population. Per capita rice consumption in India is 6.8 kg per month. Therefore, fortifying rice with micronutrients is an option to supplement the diet of the poor.

Initiatives were taken by India in this direction 

  • The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution had launched a centrally sponsored pilot scheme on “Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under Public Distribution System (PDS)” for a period of three years beginning 2019-20 with a total budget outlay of Rs.174.64 crore.
    • The pilot scheme focuses on 15 districts in 15 states– Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh.

  • Under the scheme, the blending of rice is done at the milling stage. 
  • The Scheme is funded by the Government of India in the ratio of 90:10 in respect of North Eastern, hilly and island states and 75:25 in respect of the rest.
  • Mission Poshan 2.0: In the Union Budget 2021-22, the Union Finance Minister had announced Mission Poshan 2.0.
    • The supplementary nutrition programme and the Poshan Abhiyaan has been merged to launch Mission Poshan 2.0 to strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach, and outcome.

Fortification in India

Currently government is promoting fortification in following 5 food items:

  • Rice, salt, edible oil, milk and wheat.

Rice: Department of Food & Public Distribution (DFPD) has been running a “Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme on Fortification of Rice & its distribution through Public Distribution System”. The scheme was initiated in 2019-20 for a three-year pilot run. This scheme will run till 2023 and rice will be supplied to the beneficiaries at the rate of Re 1 per kilogram.

  • For rice fortification, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution is the nodal agency

Wheat: The decision on fortification of wheat was announced in 2018 and is being implemented in 12 states under India’s flagship Poshan Abhiyaan to improve nutrition among children, adolescents, pregnant mothers and lactating mothers.

Edible oil: Fortification of edible oil, too, was made compulsory across the country by FSSAI in 2018.

Milk: Fortification of milk was started in 2017 under which the National Dairy Development Board of India (NDDB) is pushing companies to add vitamin D.

Benefits of fortification

  • High benefit-to-cost ratio: Food fortification has a high benefit-to-cost ratio. The Copenhagen Consensus estimates that every 1 Rupee spent on fortification results in 9 Rupees in benefits to the economy. While an initial investment to purchase both the equipment and the vitamin and mineral premix is required, the overall costs of fortification are extremely low.
    • Also, fortification ensures a threshold level of nutrition at a very low cost—just 15 paisa to fortify a litre of oil and 2 paisa for a litre of milk.
  • No socio-cultural barriers: Fortification does not require any changes in food habits and patterns of people. It is a socio-culturally acceptable way to deliver nutrients to people
  • No alteration of food characteristics: It does not alter the characteristics of the food like the taste, aroma or the texture of the food
  • Quick implementation: It can be implemented quickly as well as show results in improvement of health in a relatively short period of time.
  • Wide reach: Since the nutrients are added to widely consumed staple foods, fortification is an excellent way to improve the health of a large section of the population, all at once.

Issues with fortification

A flawed approach to malnutrition: When it comes to malnutrition in India, the problem is calorie insufficiency, protein inadequacy and a severe lack of dietary diversity as a result of monotonous cereal-based diets.

  • Problem with excess iron: Wrt anaemia, haemoglobin synthesis doesn’t happen with just iron alone; many other elements are required in far larger quantities, especially good quality protein, vitamin B and C, folic acid, among others. Adding more iron will only succeed in increasing ferritin—an iron storage protein, but won’t lead to haemoglobin synthesis, or treatment of anaemia.
    Loading the system with iron has its own problems. Iron has oxidative properties and it can react with intestinal mucosa, which could become damaged by existing infections, which are widespread in India. Tuberculosis, malaria and other infections become uncontrollable when iron is given at the acute phase of these infections. New evidence shows that high ferritin is associated with diabetes, especially during pregnancy.
  • Loss of natural protective substances: Sometimes, fortification can have the opposite effect. Natural foods contain protective substances such as phytochemicals and polyunsaturated fat that are adversely affected by the process of blending micronutrients.
  • Market-driven solution: The researchers are worried that the push towards fortification is more to help the industry than the people and is an international market driven solution and without any scientific logic.
  • Mandatory fortification will create markets that will be hard to withdraw when we have achieved the target of reduced micronutrient deficiency.
  • Moreover, globally, scientific studies have shown that fortification programmes lead to increased market share for larger formal players, and reduce market share of the informal sector.
  • High cost: The fortification expenditure of only the rice delivered through the social safety networks will cost the public exchequer about Rs 2,600 crores annually.
  • Impact on small industries: Fortification creates an assured market for multinationals. It could threaten the livelihoods of small units across India. Like, in case of rice and oil processing. Although the FSSAI claims that medium and large rice millers will be incentivised to fortify rice, the process itself is expensive and prohibitive for small players. An indicative cost of setting up rice fortification infrastructure for a medium-sized mill is Rs 3.2 crore, according to the government.
  • No direct link b/w anaemia & iron deficiency: There is no direct link between anaemia and iron deficiency. Anaemia is high among poor children in the rural areas but iron deficiency is more among the urban and rich across the country.


  • A diverse and quality diet is more helpful: Instead of fortification, the quality of diet should be improved. Increasing the intake of foods from animal sources and fruits would be more helpful. National Institute of Nutrition, too, recommended that a diverse natural diet is required to meet the normal population need of micronutrients in its Nutrient Requirements of Indians released 2020.
  • School meals programmes should look to enhance dietary diversity by adding animal and plant protein like eggs, dairy, pulses along with vegetables and fruit.
  • Food can be grown through Amrut Krishi, an organic farming technique that would lead to an increase in food nutrition.
  • Another solution was breast feeding with proper latching techniques. It could make critical impacts on nutrition deficiency in the critical first 1,000 days.
  • Kitchen gardens: A study in Maharashtra has shown that vegetables grown in organic kitchen gardens increase haemoglobin levels.
  • Include less processed or unpolished rice in the public distribution system. This would make sure that rice bran, a rich source of various micronutrients reached people.
  • Connect local communities, farmers, micro, small and medium processors and others with local nutrition programmes. They can supply the raw materials as well as any locally prepared food-to-food fortificants such as syrups, biscuits, porridge, powders and various products made from local ingredients like starchy foods, vegetables, fruit, flowers, nuts, oils, and animal products. Studies show that such food fortificants greatly improve nutrition, while supporting local livelihoods.

Source: PIB

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