KHAMMAM: Conversion of rice mills for producing fortified rice has hit a roadblock in Khammam and Bhadradri-Kothagudem districts, as millers have sought more time to do so.
Supplying fortified rice through the public distribution system is an ambitious attempt of union government to combat anaemia within the country. Rice fortification is a process wherein micronutrients like iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 are added to the rice during the process of milling. Supplying such rice through public distribution system (PDS) is believed to be an effective and cost-efficient way of addressing malnutrition within a short period of time.
Fortified rice is already being made available in the first phase to anganwadis and under PM Poshan scheme. Under phase two, it will be supplied under targeted PDS and other welfare schemes to 291 districts of the country from March 2023. Fortified rice will be made available under PDS to all districts in the country under phase three by March 2024.
As part of this strategy, central government has made it mandatory for all rice mills that supply custom milled rice to Food Corporation of India to modify their plants, so that they can supply fortified rice by March 2023.
There are 63 rice mills in Khammam district and 42 in Bhadradri-Kothagudem district, which process custom milled rice. Only 11 mills have converted their plants to produce fortified rice so far. They are already supplying 1,200 tonnes of fortified rice to Kerala and West Bengal. Rest of the mills have not yet modified their plants, as it costs the miller between ₹ 6–11 lakh.
“We want time to modify our mills to produce fortified rice. We have not yet fully received payments for the custom milled rice that we had supplied. We had also suffered losses during the Covid-19 pandemic.” said Telangana Rice Millers Association district president Bomma Rajeswara Rao.
Mills that do not modify their plants to produce fortified rice will not get custom milling rice from FCI. Thus, there is also pressure on millers to modify their plants to produce fortified rice.
Essentially, fortifying rice involves grinding rice into powder, mixing it with nutrients, and then shaping it into rice-like kernels using an extrusion process. One kg of fortified rice is then mixed with 99 kg of normal rice and distributed for consumption....