Govt. working towards controlling micronutrient deficiency through fortification: Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare

New Delhi: According to United Nations’ reports, world population is expected to increase by 2 billion persons in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050. India’s population is projected to overtake that of China, will rise to 1.6 billion, from its current level of 1.3 billion. Skewed use of major fertilizer nutrients without micronutrients is a major concern for achieving the agricultural intensification required to feed the growing world population nutritious food. To discuss the critical issue of micronutrient deficiency and its association with country’s food & nutrition security, International Zinc Association (IZA) in partnership with Hindustan Zinc Limited (HZL) and India Lead Zinc Development Association (ILZDA) hosted a virtual roundtable on Zinc Fertilizer and its Raw Materials for Food and Nutrition Security today.

Eminent speakers Shri Kailash Choudhary, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India; Dr Andrew Green, Executive Director, IZA, USA; Mr Arun Misra, CEO, Hindustan Zinc Limited; Mr. L Pugazhenthy, Executive Director, India Lead Zinc Development Association (ILZDA); Dr Sabina Grund, Manager – Sustainable Development, International Zinc Association, Belgium; Dr Peter Robinson, International Consultant, Integrated Resource Management, Canada; Mr Neeraj Kedia, Managing Director, Chakradhar Chemicals, Mr Abhijeet Kumar, Dy Director – Market Development, Hindustan Zinc and Dr Soumitra Das, Director, South Asia-ZNI, International Zinc Association highlighted the relevance of micronutrients and zinc fertilizers in food and nutrition security; and stressed that concerted efforts should be made to explore the possibility of an alternate source of raw material, and possibly, primary zinc source in near future.

 

Engaging with the key speakers, Shri Kailash Choudhary, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India highlighted the efforts taken by the Ministry and GoI under the leadership of Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi including supply of fortified crops and fertilizer subsidy. “Absence of micronutrient like Zinc has been shown to have a direct impact on the crop output which therefore is detrimental to food security. We have been working towards strengthening the backward linkages such as the infrastructure upgradation of soil testing, deploying relevant research & development into creation of micronutrient fertilizers, creation of awareness amongst relevant stakeholders. We are committed to achieving these targets in the years to come,” said Shri Kailash Choudhary.

 

Addressing the audience, Mr Arun Misra, CEO, Hindustan Zinc Limited highlighted, “The importance of Zinc in strengthening our immunity and protecting us cannot be emphasized enough, as the pandemic has shown the world. Compound that with the deficiency of this key micronutrient in our natural everyday food is a concern that requires all stakeholders to urgently and collectively work towards food fortification. As a conscious step, we at Hindustan Zinc have partnered with IZA and commissioned the study of new and innovative products and technologies to convert primary zinc to raw materials for zinc fertilizer production. We have also initiated a zinc fertilizer trial on a farmland at Udaipur in Rajasthan, India to enable Agri-solutions for nutrition security. At a strategic level, in order to achieve the greater objective of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations that aims to eradicate hunger, poverty, and malnutrition by 2030 by the signatory countries, including India, a favorable and conducive micronutrient policy is inevitable for ensuring the food, nutrition and health security of the country and our people.”

 

Description automatically generatedThe latest initiative by IZA & HZL aligns with India’s newly declared September Nutrition Month as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition (POSHAN Abhiyaan) and Mission Poshan 2.0, Government of India’s flagship program to improve nutritional outcomes for people most affected by micronutrient deficiencies through fortification of crops.

 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 8,00,000 people die annually due to zinc deficiency, of which 4,50,000 are children under the age of five. As per the UNICEF, the country-wise deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia in children under five depicts that the casualty due to zinc deficiency in India is alarmingly high, even higher than the Sub-Saharan African countries or the neighbouring countries. In India, states including Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have been reported with severe zinc deficiency in soils as high as 60% with an average deficit of around 40%.

 

Speaking at the conference, Dr. Andrew Green – Executive Director, IZA (USA) said, “For the agricultural sector to grow, not only does the farm production and productivity need improvement but the quality of output needs to be looked at simultaneously. Adding micronutrients such as zinc have not only proven to enhance crop yield and water uptake but also results in healthier, stronger crops. Honorable PM Shri Narendra Modi’s recent announcement to supply fortified grains to the impoverished is yet another remarkable move in boosting food and nutrition security in the country and we’re hopeful that it will certainly boost Zn biofortification.”

 

The use efficiency of micronutrient fertilizers is abysmally low and generally does not exceed 5% in crops. Development of new and innovative micronutrient fertilizer products for higher use efficiency is the need of the hour. “In addition to the ongoing challenges in the zinc fertilizer sector, like, higher GST rates on micronutrients, zincated urea policy, inclusion of ZnO in FCO, etc., scarcity of quality raw materials i.e., zinc ash has further added to the woes. This is seriously impacting the zinc fertilizer production and consumption in the country”, emphasized Dr. Soumitra Das, Director (South Asia), Zinc Nutrient Initiative, IZA.

 

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