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Karnataka works to propel bio-fortification of crops, provides funding and guidance
Tuesday, 23 August, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Karnataka is now working to propel its efforts in bio-fortification of crops. The state is already on course to identify farmers who grow fortified crop varieties with application of micronutrient fertilisers.

These micronutrient-rich crops are developed through conventional breeding techniques to improve all critical micronutrients like  iron, zinc, or vitamin A and sustain high yield, drought tolerance, and resistance to disease and pests.

At a FICCI workshop on bio-fortification titled ‘A pathway to improve India’s nutritional outcomes’, experts from the Karnataka Departments of Agriculture, Horticulture, and Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs and Legal Metrology department along with Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition(GAIN), Syngenta Foundation and HarvestPlus deliberated on the initiatives aimed at enhancing the supply of nutrient-dense food through interventions along the value chain.

Noting that there is a strong focus to fix a nutritional problem through bio- fortification,  Ravindra Agarwal, managing director, KisanKraft, and chair, agriculture subcommittee, FICCI Karnataka State Council, said choices of food makes the difference. So even local fruits and vegetables also need to be fortified. There is also a need for labelling of fortified seeds. The Karnataka government is focusing on gene deficiencies in the soil. It needs to incentivise farmers to grow bio-fortified crops and a branding strategy in place  would also widen the scope to enhance the nutritional fortification of foods.

MH Banthanal, managing director, Karnataka Agricultural Produce Processing & Export Corporation, delved on the financial grants coming forth for the bio-fortification to support both new and existing micro food companies. The scheme is open to both individuals and companies that would have access to credit linked subsidy where Central government chips in 10 per cent and state gives 15 per cent. This could be used for expansion, upgrading units. The project cost covers plant and machinery but excludes cost of land or rent. Technical work of upto 30 per cent of the total project cost will be provided under the scheme.  The funds will be disbursed only through banks, which brings in credibility to the scheme.

According to Kapil Mohan, Additional Chief Secretary, Karnataka Department of Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs and Legal Metrology, the effects of bio-fortification will be seen in the years to come. The state has already covered around 19 of the 30 districts to ensure rice and millet  fortification. There is more scope to fortify even staple crops to bio-fortified foods. Further, bio- fortification is a far superior solution and there is an imminent need to address the gaps of micronutrients to stall malnutrition in the population.

Dr Usha Manjunath, director, Institute of Health Management Research,   addressing the importance of bio- fortification noted that the need of the hour for a diverse diet country is to promote affordable and accessible solutions.

Dr Veenita Kumari, deputy director, (Gender Studies ), National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management, said  efforts are made to provide the right guidance and timely advice  in the area of bio-fortification.

Dr Nagaraja, TE, professor, (plant breeding) and head, ICAR-AICRP, Small Millets, ZARS, University of Agricultural Sciences, noted that the focus on bio-fortification of crops is that it should be cost-effective and sustainable. We have researched and released rice and millets from UAS.
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