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CII organised virtual meet on Micronutrient Fertilisers for Food & Nutrition Security
Tuesday, 09 March, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
To discuss the pressing issues of the sector such as micronutrient deficiency and its impact on agriculture and human health, International Zinc Association – leading industry association dedicated exclusively to the interests of zinc in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and support of Rio Tinto, organized a virtual roundtable on ‘Micronutrient Fertilisers for Food and Nutrition Security’. The roundtable was based on the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations’ theme of ‘International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021’, with the key objective to highlight the importance of micronutrient fertilisers, including Zinc fertilisers in the horticultural crops for food and nutrition security, wherein innovative and new generation fertilisers, like fortified, specialty and water soluble fertilisers were discussed.

The roundtable was addressed by Dr Ashok Dalwai – chief executive officer, NRAA and chairman, Task Force, Doubling Farmers Income (PMO), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, GoI; Dr S.K. Malhotra, Agricultural Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, GoI; Sridhar Dharmapuri - group leader, Agriculture and Food Systems, FAO of the United Nations, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand; along with notable speakers including Vikram Merchant – country head, Rio Tinto; Colin Thomson - general manager - sales (Americas and EIMEA), Rio Tinto Borates, USA; Dr Cleiton de Sequeira – Global Market Development Manager – Agriculture, Rio Tinto Borates, USA; Meetu Kapur  – executive director, CII’s Food and Agriculture Center of Excellence (FACE); Dr Andrew Green – executive director, IZA, USA; Dr Soumitra Das –  director, South Asia - Zinc Nutrient Initiative, IZA; Dr A.N. Ganeshamurthy - Emeritus Scientist, Former Dean, CAU and Head, SSAC, ICAR-Indian Institute of Horticultural Research and Dr A.K. Shukla - project coordinator (Micronutrients), ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil Science, amongst others. All industry leaders emphasised the need for a favourable and conducive micronutrient fertiliser policy that will ensure the food, nutrition and health security of the country.
 
Speaking at the roundtable, 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.”
 
He added, “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 favourable and conducive micronutrient policy is inevitable for ensuring the food, nutrition and health security of the country. We are hopeful that the government takes cognisance of these recommendations to address the widespread zinc deficiency.”
 
With the objective to promote and advance healthy lifestyle and build immunity, FAO announced 2021 as the ‘International year of fruits and vegetables'. Fruits and Vegetables are considered a rich source of nutrients in human health. With the Covid-19 pandemic, the need to transform and rebalance the way our food is produced and consumed has only been further stressed. However, most soils globally are witnessing multi-micronutrient deficiencies, dominated by zinc (Zn) and boron (B). This is adversely impacting yield and quality of crops. The scenario in India is no different and the Indian soils are primarily deficient in Zinc, Boron along with other micronutrients like Iron, Manganese, and Copper etc. India too is a zinc deficient country and about 37 per cent soil samples analysed for available zinc have been found deficient that subsequently leads to zinc deficiency in humans resulting in micronutrient malnutrition. The major causes for micronutrient deficiencies are intensified agricultural practices, imbalanced fertiliser application including NPK, depletion of nutrients and no replenishment.
 
Highlighting the need for a robust infrastructure in soil testing along with the need to address the micronutrient deficiency, Dr Ashok Dalwai - chief executive officer, NRAA and Chairman, Task Force, Doubling Farmers Income (PMO), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, GoI, said, “Absence of micronutrient like Zinc and Boron has been shown to have a direct impact on the crop output. The way forward is to strengthen the backward linkages such as the infrastructure upgradation of soil testing, creation of awareness amongst relevant stakeholders, policy redesign and most importantly the research and development that gets deployed into creation of micronutrient fertilisers. We are committed to achieving these targets in the years to come.”
 
The sessions with policy makers threw light on the need for a holistic policy for micronutrients. Some of the key discussion points included New and Innovative Micronutrient Fertilisers – Zinc and Boron Innovation; Fortification in bulk fertilisers with special reference to SSP; Micronutrients in Specialty and Water Soluble Fertilisers; Micronutrient Fortification in Urea; Importance of Micronutrients in value addition and exports of horticultural produces; to name a few.
 
Commenting on the virtual discussion, Dr Soumitra Das, director, South Asia - Zinc Nutrient Initiative, International Zinc Association said, “Zinc has emerged as the most widespread micronutrient deficiency in soils and crops worldwide, resulting in severe yield losses and deterioration in nutritional quality. We have seen a remarkable increase in consumption of zinc fertilisers in India in the last 7-8 year. With changes in policy initiatives and increased awareness, we can make headwinds in popularising micronutrients in balanced fertiliser use across sectors.”
 
Addressing the audience, Meetu Kapur, executive director, CII Food and Agriculture Center of Excellence, said, “The programme gains relevance given that amongst the multitude of challenges that agriculture faces globally deterioration of soil health is a key concern.  The importance of micronutrients needs to be viewed from a food systems approach and a holistic approach is needed for developing sustainable micronutrient supply systems through interactions/discussions amongst the stakeholders. It is heartening to see experts in-line with the thought and we’re hopeful that the recommendations will help develop a roadmap to overcome the challenges faced in the sector.”
 
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