As the global market of biofortification is projected to reach $217.21 million by 2030 from the current $100.84 million (in 2022), the government is seeking the private sector’s help to popularise the access to nutrient-rich crops. The the industry wants separate branding of biofortified foods, similar to what has been done for “organic” products.

Addressing a conference on “Strengthening Food Systems for Nutrient-Rich Crops”, organised by the industry chamber, FICCI, in New Delhi, Maninder Kaur Dwivedi, additional secretary in the Agriculture Ministry, on Wednesday said there is a need to popularise access to nutrient-rich crops. “It is the corporates and industry which can turn nutrient-rich crops into more varieties of ready-to-eat foods that are palatable, acceptable in line with the evolving global taste,” Dwivedi said.

She said the process of fortification has been very old. Biofortification is one way out wherein fortification is not just post-harvest, but even before harvest, she said.

Once biofortification becomes successful, the external fortification of wheat and rice (currently carried out under a government scheme and limited only to those grains distributed through ration shops and mid-day meals) may not be needed as biofortification will be a natural process, said Siraj Hussain, a former agriculture secretary.

A report titled ‘Biofortification- A Pathway to Improve India’s Nutritional Outcomes’, prepared by PwC, was released during the event.

According to the report, market drive for sustainable growth is critical and can be achieved through solutions such as direct farm-gate purchase, increasing consumer awareness, proper labelling and packaging. It also said that the supply drive (increasing the production of biofortified foods) can be strengthened through improving farmer acceptance and awareness, developing a robust value chain and a brand differentiator (through a logo) to label biofortified foods.

“Beyond health, there is an economic and environmental case for nutrient-rich crops. We should be talking about holistic approach toward nutrient-rich crops,” said Penjani Mkambula, senior cluster lead, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).“Government must ensure that biofortification is included in the national nutrition agenda as a pathway to combat micronutrient malnutrition and that sufficient resources are made available to research institutions to drive further innovations in this space. Public and private sector actors should work towards mainstreaming biofortified trait across their product lines and promoting nutrient-enriched seeds through marketing and promotional techniques,” the report said.