This initiative — which is being launched on a pilot basis — is part of the government's Poshan Abhiyan scheme, which aims to reduce the incidence of stunting in children from birth to the age of six. The firm will receive technical support from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the state's Office of the Commissioner of Food Safety.
This comes just after the government issued an order requiring every state in India to provide fortified rice to anganwandis, or rural childcare centres.
The initiative also comes under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) government programme, which provides food, pre-school education, primary healthcare, immunisation, health check-ups and referral services to children under six years of age and their mothers.
Rice to the occasion
SupplyCo will be producing rice fortified with micronutrients such as iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 at its facility in the city of Taliparamba in Kerala.
By fortifying a staple food of the local population, the company hopes to aid in the fight against widespread malnutrition, which disproportionately affects women and children across India.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, SupplyCo GM R. Ram Mohan said: "What we are doing is to make nutrition more easily accessible to those who need it most — children and women.
"We are also making sure that our fortified rice will be made available at a lower, more affordable price, so more people can afford them and as a result, more people can enjoy the benefits of fortified rice.
"At the same time, we see it as a form of market control. If we are able to provide something nutritious and beneficial to the masses at such an affordable price, there is no reason other companies should not be able to do the same."
To achieve this, the company has had a dedicated micronutrient rice blender installed at its Taliparamba depot, which uses a patented technology to incorporate micronutrient powders into rice.
The fortified rice will then be packaged and distributed to the anganwadis in the state. However, the parties involved have not revealed which cities or districts will be the first adopters.
There are approximately 33,115 anganwadis, in Kerala, and the programme dictates that fortified rice be introduced in anganwadis in at least one district in the state by this December. The project is expected to commence by June, whereupon more details will be released to the general public.
The rice will be harvested from local farms; SupplyCo sees this as an opportunity to not only help fight malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies in Kerala, but also to create jobs and support the local agriculture sector.
The future of fortification?
Mohan added that producing and distributing fortified rice was simply the first step in SupplyCo's contribution to the fight against malnutrition in India.
"We are not only planning to eventually distribute fortified rice across Kerala, but also to expand our production of fortified wheat flour for distribution in ration shops in the state.
"At the moment, we are producing about 65 tonnes of fortified wheat flour monthly, and demand has been growing, so we have scale up our production as we do not want to risk demand outstripping supply."
Mohan further said that in addition to fortified wheat flour and rice, the company was also planning to roll out fortified oil and salt in Kerala "very soon".