According to the latest statistics provided by Path, 200m people suffer from hunger and malnutrition in India – more than any other country in the world.
In response to this concerning health issue, the NGO and Abbott have set up a new malnutrition programme based on Path’s Ultra Rice fortification technology.
The non-for-profit group said the technology works as “a micronutrient delivery system that packs vitamins and minerals into rice-shaped ‘grains’” which, when blended with milled rice, result in a product that “is nearly identical to traditional rice in smell, taste, and texture.”
The new partnership seeks to advance the use of this technology in high-rice consuming areas, through public sector food distribution programmes, in order to improve nutrition levels amongst local populations.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-Asia.com, Katherine Pickus, vice president of the Abbott Fund, and divisional vice president of Global Citizenship and Policy at Abbott, explains that the partnership came into fruition after discussions were held “over the past few years… on how we could work together in India.”
She adds that both organisations have “a significant presence in India and a shared commitment to addressing health needs” and that this new programme provides a “strong opportunity to combine the unique expertise and resources of both organisations.”
In terms of what each organisation will bring to the partnership, Pickus states that Path’s pioneering and innovative technology will be complemented by “Abbott’s scientific and technical expertise” and with the help of the Abbott Fund, the project will be able to develop and expand further.
‘Strengthening local capacity’
Dipika Matthias, director of Path’s Ultra Rice project, told this publication that over the next three years, the partnership “is focused on expanding the use of fortified rice through public sector food distribution programmes in one state, with the target of reaching 500,000 people.” She adds that within this timeframe the pilot programme will be used as a model and then scaled-up and “replicated in other states across India.”
Matthias emphasises that a “key focus for this partnership is strengthening local capacity in order to build towards market sustainability.”
In order to ensure affordability for the local population, Path has developed an “all-local supply chain.” Thus, for the duration of the pilot programme the partnership will be working with a local agro-food company, Usher Agro, which will enhance the supply-base of fortified grains.
In addition, Path and Abbott aim “to develop, commercialise, install and validate low-cost blending equipment at select rice miller sites in one state” which can then be developed and leveraged into an introductory model to be implemented throughout India.
Matthias says that the partnership’s long term vision is “to create the mechanisms for broader market access.” She notes that “rice fortification has lagged behind the fortification efforts of many other staples, including flour, oil, and sugar, but holds great potential for reaching 65 per cent of Indians who consume rice daily.”
As well as expanding the use of the Ultra Rice technology throughout India, there are also plans to develop the fortified rice market in other countries within the Asia-Pacific region.
Path has already completed market analysis of the rice fortification sector in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh and is now currently exploring funding and partnership opportunities in the latter three countries.