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Sri Lanka to tackle  malnutrition by locally-producing  fortified rice kernels

July 10, Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka’s new capacity to produce fortified rice kernels marks a significant advancement in combating malnutrition and food insecurity. 

This collaborative effort between the government, international organizations, and private sector partners underscores a shared commitment to improving the nation’s nutritional status, particularly for its children, through innovative and sustainable food fortification practices.

The Government has announced the capacity to produce fortified rice kernels enriched with folic acid and iron.

 This achievement, realized through an extrusion process, aims to address the heightened food insecurity and malnutrition following the recent economic crisis. President’s Chief of Staff, Sagala Ratnayaka, emphasized the government’s commitment to this initiative, especially through the National Free School Meal Program.

The transfer of extrusion technology was a priority for the Presidential Secretariat, facilitated by the World Food Program (WFP), PATH, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Akshata, and Connect To Care. 

This collaboration was celebrated with a workshop at the Galle Face Hotel, organized by the Presidential Secretariat Support Unit, Connect to Care, and PATH. The event gathered key stakeholders from various sectors to discuss the benefits of food fortification and the potential for further technological collaboration.

In his keynote speech, Ratnayaka highlighted the government’s vision and support for food fortification initiatives. He acknowledged the Gates Foundation’s role in the Rice Fortification Project as a significant step towards improving children’s health and well-being. Ratnayaka expressed gratitude for the partnership with WFP, PATH, and Connect to Care in making this vision a reality.

Roshan Perera, Managing Director of Grains n Green, expressed pride in becoming Sri Lanka’s first fortified rice kernel producer. Perera emphasized the project’s long-term positive impact on the population’s nutritional status, particularly for children. Grains n Green, in partnership with Akshata and the Gates Foundation, is spearheading this initiative, which will greatly benefit the National School Meal Program by ensuring children receive essential nutrients for their growth and development.

The Free National School Meal Program, a critical component of this initiative, provides nutritious meals to children in grades 1 to 5 at selected schools. This program currently reaches over one million children across the country, supported by the Education Ministry and the WFP. The inclusion of fortified kernels in the program will enhance nutrition and reduce reliance on imported fortified rice kernels from India.

The workshop featured prominent attendees, including the President’s Chief of Staff, government ministry representatives, the Gates Foundation, WFP, PATH, donor agencies such as Save the Children, USAID, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, and FAO, as well as private sector individuals. Panel discussions and breakout sessions focused on the progress, gaps, and unmet needs in food fortification. Specific topics included quality assurance, storage, transport systems, and expanding fortification programs to other social protection initiatives and broader markets.

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