September 10, Thimphu: In order to create better understanding on rice fortification, a team from Bangladesh led by Mr. Md Anyul Kabir, the Joint Secretary for Ministry of Women and Children Affairs were in the country to share their experiences on rice fortification.
Extending a warm welcome to the participants, the Agriculture Secretary, Dasho Tenzin Dhendup said that Bangladeshi experience would be relevant to Bhutan as in both countries, rice is consumed at least three times a day. He shared that in Bhutan, nutritional deficiency has been noticed in some of the schools. ‘We are concerned and serious about improving the general nutritional situation in Bhutan focusing initially on school children,’ Dasho added.
Rice fortification is an enrichment of rice with essential vitamins and minerals after harvesting to increase its nutritional value which is regarded as a safe and cost effective intervention. According to Jennifer Rosenzweig, the Nutrition Specialist from WFP, fortified rice has great potential to reduce micronutrients deficiency. She added that multi-micronutrient formula including iron, zinc, folic acid, other B vitamins, vitamin A, E and selenium can be used to fortify rice.
A presentation from the Health Ministry highlighted the nutritional deficiency in schools that resulted in several outbreaks of peripheral neuropathy with suspected Beriberi, a condition of acute vitamin B1 or Thiamin shortage. Considering the situation, the Health Ministry recommended agriculture ministry to develop programs that addresses food insecurity and also consider fortifying foods to provide adequate levels of micronutrients in the diet of school children.
Bangladesh has a large school feeding programme using fortified biscuits and has been one of the pilot countries in the region for rice fortification. Dr. Taherul Islam Khan from Bangladesh shared that rice is the staple food in Bangladesh which has high deficiency of micronutrients. He added that in order teHeo reduce the deficiency, the Government have decided to fortify rice with six micronutrients which has been successful in their school feeding schemes.
It was realised that the fortified rice has both opportunities and challenges in Bhutan. The agriculture officials felt the need to have proper study to technically understand the nutritional status and fortification with further discussion on the subject before implementation. The need to create more awareness on nutritional aspects were also felt. Bhutan is expected to paid a visit to Bangladesh for better understanding on fortification.
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