As many as 600 out of 900 major rice mills in the State have installed blending machines to produce fortified boiled rice out of paddy purchases made by mills in the ongoing rabi season.
The mills started installing blending machines since the Food Corporation of India had agreed to buy fortified boiled rice in the State while totally rejecting boiled rice. The refusal of the Centre to lift boiled rice from the State had kicked off a major protest by the State government. As the paddy cultivated in rabi generally yielded broken rice due to higher temperatures during harvest, the State government had been supplying boiled rice to the FCI all these years. But, the FCI had refused to buy boiled rice from this year as it had surplussed stocks at its godowns.
In this backdrop, the FCI agreed to buy 40.20 lakh tonnes of raw rice and 2.60 lakh tonnes of fortified boiled rice of rabi from the State, a senior officer of civil supplies told The Hindu.
Rice fortification was a process of adding micronutrients to regular rice using extrusion technology. This involved production of fortified rice kernels from a mixture using an extruder machine. The fortified rice kernels were then blended with regular rice to produce fortified rice. The micronutrients that were used to blend included iron, folic acid and Vitamin `D’ B 12. The rice fortification was the fifth behind salt, oils, mlk and wheat which was targeted for fortification by the Centre by 2024.
The official said the Centre proposed supply of fortified rice in the public distribution system to improve immunity levels of people in the background of Coronavirus and other viruses. After the State government decided to tow the line of Centre, officials suggested to rice millers to install blending machines. The supply of fortified rice made a small beginning from anganwadi centres in the State this month. In the coming months, it will be included in mid-day meals for school children and PDS, officials added.
In the coming days, the blending machines will also be used to the stocks already in the godowns of FCI for PDS.
When the civil supplies department wrote to the FCI on April 13 that it would supply raw rice and not boiled rice, the department also communicated that it was prepared to supply as much fortified boiled rice as much as possible. Senior officials of the department also rushed to Delhi to convey their preparedness. In response, the secretary of Ministry of Food, PDS and Consumer Affairs wrote to the department on Thursday that the FCI would be instructed to lift 2.60 lakh tonnes of fortified boiled rice from the State. As a consequence, the allotment of paddy to rice mills was also enhanced.