Sep 30, 2022
HOUSTON, TX -- At a workshop on fortified rice improvements this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that over the past five years, rice is the top commodity utilized in the McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program (MGD) that currently includes 40 projects in 30 countries.
Since 2018, fortified rice has been called forward for 50 percent of global school feeding programs – to be exact, 125,000 MT out of a total of 250,000 MT required of food assistance commodities.
The trend continues into 2022/2023 with $220 million in school feeding awarded for eight projects across Africa and Asia. In an unprecedented move, for a relatively new food assistance commodity, all eight projects include fortified rice together with a protein and vegetable oil. Of the 41,000 MT in commodities awarded this year, more than half is fortified rice.
Each MGD project will run four to five years and will also include a small component for local and regional purchase (LRP) to complement the U.S.-origin food.
USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have reached a long-stated goal and have now switched over entirely to the use of fortified rice for food aid programs, with the exception of Food For Progress (FFPR) and some emergency assistance.
“Of all of the new food aid commodities that have come online over the last eight years, fortified rice has achieved the greatest success and is widely recognized as an ideal tool to fight malnutrition and hunger,” said Jacob Broussard, a Texas rice miller and chair of the USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee. “An important factor in the increased use of rice in food aid programs is minimal price increases compared to significant price increases for other commodities commonly used in U.S. food assistance programs. USDA estimates that up to 70,000 MT of fortified rice will be purchased in 2023.”
The workshop was focused on how to address the issue of Vitamin A retention, which can deteriorate at high temperatures. Temperatures on the docks and in storage areas in many food aid destinations exceed 100 degrees. Exposed to that kind of heat and humidity over a significant time period (which is common), Vitamin A deteriorates almost completely.
One of the initial options was to improve the packaging, and while this would be helpful, it does not completely stop Vitamin A deterioration. Another option is to increase fortification ratios for Vitamin A, but this has cost implications. The most likely option under consideration is to remove Vitamin A from the panel of fortified rice micronutrients and include it in vegetable oil instead, which is almost always delivered together with rice, in most food aid programs.
“The critical point now is for stakeholders to work together with USDA and USAID to ensure that the solution does not bring significant cost implications for producers,” said Broussard. “USA Rice will remain engaged in the dialog to ensure that we can keep providing fortified rice to vulnerable populations around the world who rely on its nutritional benefits.”