BUSINESS

Stakeholders launch micronutrient fortified rice

…Urges FG to introduce it in Home-Grown School programme

By Peter Usman://

As a way of adding value to rice produce in Nigeria to enhance its nutrient for the purpose of tackling the issue of malnutrition in Nigeria, stakeholders have called on the Federal Government to introduce the newly launched micronutrient fortified rice in its Home-Grown School feeding programme to address undernourishment.

The stakeholders, who made the call at the launch of the micronutrient fortified rice in Abuja, noted that nutritional value of the rice after fortification was capable of fighting malnutrition.

Recall that the Federal Government is working on a national strategy to tackle micronutrient deficiencies. In line with this strategy, the government has authorised the fortification of rice, one of the primary staple foods of the country, as a part of the national fortification programme.

Speaking with journalists after the launch, the Country Director of Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, GAIN Dr. Michael Ojo, described Nigeria’s malnutrition as alarming, stressing the need to quickly address it, as it may worsen if left unattended to..

He said that the statistics evidence have showed the negative impact of the lack of micronutrients amongst children, which will lead to malnutrition, adding that the need to introduce it into the school feeding programmes cannot be overemphasised..

Ojo said, “We are fortifying rice with zinc, Iron, Folic acid and vitamin B12.These are micronutrients that are not sufficiently available in the food that we consume but are critical, really crucial to health and well being.

“Folic acid is critical to the body’s production of red blood cells. We see a lot of anemia and anemia means that people don’t have enough red blood cells and it limits their ability to perform every day.

“We see very high rates in women and in children, especially women who are going through their periods and losing blood for that reason. So it is very important in our diet.”

The Managing Director of WACOT Rice, Neeraj Kumar, while speaking with newsmen in an interview at the event, promised the readiness of his organisation to partner in piloting the fortification project in Kebbi state, saying he has confidence in stakeholders in the area of technical capabilities.

Kumar asserted that the newly launched fortified rice is not more expensive than regular rice stressing that the cost implication is very minimal.

According to him, “It is one percent of blending only, so it will not have impact on the cost. It contains Iron, Zinc, vitamin B1, B3, B6, and B12.”

Also speaking, Country Representative of the United Nations World Food Programme, Mr. David Stevenson noted that Nigeria had one of the largest Home-Grown School Feeding programme in Africa, which can be improved to targets 10 million children.

Stevenson stated that the idea is to fortify rice and then provide it to the school children as part of the home-grown school feeding programme, saying it will help the children to be healthy.

He said, ”These ten million children will be reached everyday when the programmes runs full speed and we at the world food programme are really appreciative of the partnership.

 “According to the World Bank, Nigeria loses an estimated 1.5 billion dollars to Gross Domestic Product, GDP annually due to micronutrient deficiencies”

He, therefore, commended the Kebbi state government for agreeing to introduce the fortified rice into the school feeding programme, which will be of immense benefits to children, especially the less privileged ones.

The Kebbi state Governor, Mohammed Idris, who was represented by his deputy, Umar Abubakar, said that the state will continue to partner with key stakeholders in the fortification processes to add value to rice production through micronutrient fortification.

Idris added that the value chain will not only improve local production economic development, but will make available nutritious food for consumption and health benefits of the children.

Peterideal

A journalist by profession and I have been in active practice for so many years. A graduate of Political Science from University of Abuja. Maried with four children.

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