Food fortification has been recognized as a highly effective intervention to counter malnutrition, and it has been the subject of events and commitments at the Davos World Economic Forums before. But millers – shorthand for the food processors who produce fortified staples, including rice, flour and oil – have not historically been at the centre of this conversation. This is one of the many reasons fortification has not reached its full potential. Millers are now working to change this.
On Monday, January 16, millers from all over the world came together with other food fortification actors in the SDG Tent (“How Can We Change the Game for Local Millers to Enhance Nutrition? A Call for Action”) at the annual World Economic Forum, calling on the global community of their peers to contribute to the fight against malnutrition. Today, an estimated 3 billion people suffer from some kind of micronutrient deficiency. With spiralling food prices exacerbating an already dangerous global food and malnutrition crisis, action has never been more urgent.
Millers articulated some of the common barriers to adequate fortification:
- Consumers, especially those with low incomes, are highly price sensitive and mostly unaware of the benefits of fortification
- Rocketing raw material costs put further pressure on costs, leading millers to give up fortification or use cheaper ingredients with poorer nutritional value
- Testing nutrition quality of products requires special skills and equipment
- There can be weak and often haphazard regulatory oversight, which unfairly penalizes millers who are trying to fortify properly and lacks enforcement for those who are not fortifying to standards, or at all
These are just some of the barriers that create disincentives to sustained investment in fortification excellence.
Yet despite these challenges, the miller champions in Davos demonstrated that high quality fortification is possible. This commitment to fortification excellence can motivate others to follow their example. Sustained fortification has the power to improve nutrition while it strengthens brand equity and, ultimately, business performance.
A new industry-led coalition will provide recognition and rewards, underpinned by greater transparency on fortification results, in addition to technical support directly to partners in country. With support from TechnoServe, and other strategic fortification partners, millers from LMICs and industry colleagues are working together to refine this concept over the coming months.
Are you a miller, or do you provide support to millers to fortify staples? Please reach out to Dominic Schofield, Miller For Nutrition Program Director, TechnoServe, and join the coalition!