Sri Lanka takes major step forward in combating malnutrition by launching locally-produced fortified rice kernels

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The Government of Sri Lanka announced that Sri Lanka has now gained the capacity to produce fortified rice kernels. The Kernels are enriched with Folic Acid and Iron through an extrusion process creating nutrient rich grains that will be blended with regular rice to produce fortified rice.  

This initiative was highlighted as an urgent priority of the government following the Economic Crisis, which severely increased food insecurity and malnutrition, and the Presidential Secretariat’s commitment to the cause was highlighted by Sagala Ratnayaka, Chief of Staff to the President. 

L-R: Abhishek Kumar (State Lead – Nutrition, PATH), Chandita Samaranayake (Chairman, Connect To Care), Roshan Perera (Managing Director, Grains n Green), Sagala Ratnayaka (Chief of Staff to the President and Senior Advisor on National Security), Ruchika Chugh Sachdeva (Nutrition Lead, Gates Foundation India Country Office), Dr. Danie Shajie(Programme Manager, PATH), Dr. Kalana Peiris (Head of Nutrition and School-based Programmes, World Food Programme)

This fortified rice will be used to combat micronutrient malnutrition with Kernels being distributed via the government National Free School Meal Program. 

The transfer of extrusion technology was prioritized by the Presidential Secretariat, and enabled by the World Food Program (WFP), The Program for Appropriate Technology and Health (PATH), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Akshata, and Connect To Care.  

To mark the introduction of this capability, the Presidential Secretariat Support Unit supported by Connect To Care and PATH organized a workshop at the Galle Face Hotel.  

The workshop, which brought together key stakeholders from the government, international organizations, private sector, and civil society, explained the benefits of staple food fortification and made clear the potential for tech transfer with the collaboration of the government, private sector and international partners.   The event featured a keynote speech by Sagala Ratnayaka who emphasized the government’s vision and support for food fortification initiatives.

Sagala Ratnayaka, Chief of Staff to the President, stated, “The Rice Fortification Project supported by the Gates Foundation is a testament to our commitment to improving the health and well-being of our children. We are grateful for the support of our partners WFP, PATH and Connect To Care in making this vision a reality.”

Roshan Perera, Managing Director of Grains n Green, remarked, “We are proud to be the first fortified rice kernel producer in Sri Lanka. This project will have a lasting impact on the nutritional status of our population, especially our children.”

Key highlights of the workshop:

  • Locally-produced fortified rice kernels: Akshata from Grains n Green, as the private sector partner for the Gates Foundation Rice Fortification Project, is making a pioneering investment to become the first fortified rice kernel producer in Sri Lanka. This initiative will significantly benefit the National School Meal Programme, ensuring that children receive the essential nutrients needed for their growth and development.
  • Free School Meal Program-  Under the Free National School Meals program a nutritious and balanced meal is provided at no cost to children enrolled in Grade 1 to 5 at selected schools. Currently the Education Ministry together with the World Food Program (WFP) ensures the meals are provided to over 1 million children across the country. The Fortified kernels will be included across the program increasing nutrition and enhancing national capacity as previously fortified rice kernels have been imported from India. 
  • Key Attendees and Collaborators: The workshop featured prominent figures, including the Chief of Staff to the President, representatives from Government Ministries, State Organizations, The Gates Foundation, the World Food Programme (WFP) and PATH. Additionally, donor agencies such as Save The Children, USAID, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO & FAO as well as government ministries and agencies and prominent private sector individuals were also present. 
  • Panel Discussions and Breakout Sessions: The event included insightful panel discussions on the progress, gaps, and unmet needs in the field of food fortification. Breakout sessions addressed specific topics such as quality assurance, storage locations, transport systems, and the expansion of fortification programs to other social protection programs and wider markets.

About the Rice Fortification Project:

The Rice Fortification Project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and supported by WFP, PATH and Connect To Care aims to address the critical issue of micronutrient malnutrition by fortifying rice with essential vitamins and minerals. This initiative is part of a broader effort to improve food security and is embedded into the National School Meal Program focusing on nutritional statuses of school children in Sri Lanka. 

About the Stakeholder Workshop on Staple Food Fortification:

The workshop, organized by the Presidential Secretariat Support Unit, Connect To Care, and PATH, aimed to align efforts, clarify partner roles, and build a shared roadmap for the future of staple food fortification in Sri Lanka. It served as a platform for stakeholders to discuss ongoing initiatives, identify gaps, and create a coordinated strategy for the effective implementation of food fortification programs.

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