Maize, wheat and oil manufactures have been given up to June to have nutrients added to their products or risk having them pulled out of the market a move that has left farmers who supply to the manufacturers jittery as the manufacturers threaten to reduce the amount they pay to farmers to meet the nutrient addition expenses.
Dubbed Food fortification, the initiative came after a law requiring manufacturers to add nutrients to their products came into effect last year with a view to taming nutrient deficiencies especially among children which has been on the rice with over 80 percent of children having deficiency in Vitamin A, a situation the government admits is costing a fortune to reverse.
But even with the noble motive of halving or eradicating malnutrition, manufacturers now say they have to look for a way to meet expenses involved in fortification.
Maize farmers in Trans Nzoia county are now a worried lot after one of the maize flour manufacturers who buy from the farmers warned farmers that in six months he would reduce the buying price by upto 25 percent. “We fail to understand why he is doing this. And with such a huge reduction we only have to look for another option, except we dont know where,”said Fabian Kosgey the Chairman of Tumaini Farmers group in Trans Nzoia.
Analysts have also criticized the manufacturers' move to punish farmers arguing that the government and other stakeholders involved in food fortification initiative had already agreed to subsidize fortification equipment and nutrient blends along with training in quality assurance. “It is a shame that manufacturers have taken this route and are hell bent on defeating such a noble idea,”said Mike Waithaka from Bridgenet Africa a think tank on agricultural activities across Africa.
But already about 31 millers and eight fats and oils producers have complied with the fortification requirements.
Fortifying foods is a process that seeks to restore the macronutrients lost during production to the recommended levels.
The process began in 1978 with salt fortification but it was later made mandatory from 1983. As a result, the cases of goitre have reduced from 35 per cent to less than five per cent. .
In 2005, the Kenya National Food Fortification Alliance (KNFFA), a public-private partnership, was launched to develop additional fortification programmes, such as a 2007 project that made vitamin A-fortified cooking oil available to an estimated 3.6 million Kenyans.
The fortification of common foods is a proven, cost-effective way to improve the health and productivity of whole populations.
The fortification of especially commercially produced staple foods continuously delivers nutrients to large segments of the population, without requiring that they change their eating habits.
The impact is huge. For example, fortifying flour with folic acid has reduced cases of brain and spine birth defects, also known as neural tube defects, by up to 70 per cent.
The return on investment from micronutrient provision, including food fortification, is astounding. According to the 2012 Copenhagen Consensus panel of experts, every $1 spent providing essential micronutrients to pre-schoolers generates $30 in benefits.
Written by Dominic Wandati for African Laughter
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