Feb 23
Add zinc-enriched rice in safety net schemes: HarvestPlus PDF Print E-mail

HarvestPlus, a biofortified food crop development initiative, yesterday urged the government to distribute zinc-enriched rice in social safety net schemes to fight malnutrition.

Biofortification is the idea of breeding crops to increase their nutritional value.

The distribution will encourage people to purchase of biofortified paddy and encourage farmers to grow the biofortified rice, said Md Khairul Bashar, country manager of HarvestPlus, at a press meet at its Dhaka office.

HarvestPlus Founding Director and Ambassador-at-Large Howarth E Bouis, also spoke. Bouis will leave Dhaka tomorrow after completing his four-day visit.

In Bangladesh, 44 percent of children below five years of age and 57 percent of women suffer from various complications for zinc deficiency, according to HarvestPlus.

The organisation said every one kilogram of biofortified rice has up to 24 milligram of zinc which can fulfil up to 70 percent of daily zinc requirement of a person.

HarvestPlus said regular consumption of zinc enriched food can prevent stunting, increase appetite, and helps in physical growth and brain development.

Zinc is very essential for adolescent girls and pregnant women while children require 3-5 milligram of zinc and women need 8-9 milligram daily, HarvestPlus said, adding that zinc prevents risk of disease.

The non-governmental organisation in collaboration with Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) developed the world's first biofortified zinc rice variety in 2013.

So far, BRRI has released four zinc-enriched rice varieties -- BRRI Dhan-62 and BRRI Dhan-72 for the aman season and BRRI Dhan-64 and BRRI Dhan-74 for the boro season.

A hybrid zinc-enriched variety, BU Aromatic Rice 1, has also been released by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University with support from HarvestPlus, the NGO said.

HarvestPlus said to have distributed 908 tonnes of seed of zinc rice varieties to 498,400 farming households in over 350 upazilas of 62 districts.

Bashar said biofortification is done through conventional breeding processes and addressing micronutrient deficiency in this manner is sustainable and cheaper.

“Taste of the rice of the zinc-enriched varieties is also good,” he said.

With the progress in biofortification and cultivation, he said mainstreaming biofortification in crop development, seed multiplication and delivery of staple food has become important.

He said the government should have a policy for biofortification in agricultural and nutrition related strategies and initiatives.

Bangladesh is one of the countries where most of the population suffer from micronutrient deficiency, said Bouis, who is also a World Food Prize laureate.

HarvestPlus said it aims to further develop and widely disseminate high-yielding, comparatively disease and pest tolerant biofortified rice varieties in Bangladesh.

In the next five years, HarvestPlus targets to mainstream biofortification in agricultural research, extension and involve private sector actors for a sustainable value chain establishment for all biofortified crops, the organisation said.

(Source - The Daily Star)