Production of biofortified crops in the country should be increased by making seeds available among farmers, since such crops can significantly mitigate  zinc deficiency, participants at a roundtable discussion said yesterday.

They called for a rigorous campaign to remove consumer’s confusion about biofortified, high-yield crop varieties.

Experts added that alongside growing biofortified cereals, focus should also be on production of non-cereal crops.

HarvestPlus Bangladesh and International Food Policy Research Institute organised the roundtable on “Biofortified Crops: Connecting Value Chain Actors and Policymakers in Bangladesh” at the capital’s Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (Barc).

Biofortification is the process of increasing the density of micronutrients in widely-consumed staple crops through conventional breeding techniques, agronomic practices, or genetic modification, as per the website of HarvestPlus.

When consumed, they can provide essential micronutrients to improve nutrition and health, it reads.

Biofortification focuses on increasing crops’ content of iron, zinc, and vitamin A, to tackle deficiencies, it adds.

According to the organisers, few biofortified rice varieties are grown at present in Bangladesh.

Addressing the roundtable, former agriculture secretary Anwar Faruque suggested undertaking different programmes to make seeds of high-yield biofortified crop varieties available to growers.

Awareness programmes are also crucial because there is still huge confusion among  consumers about biofortification, he said. “Biofortification is a natural process.”

At present, more than 255 fortified crops are available across the globe, said Barc Executive Chairperson Shaikh Mohammad Bokhtiar.

Although rice is the main concern to ensure food security, Bangladesh needs to focus on biofortification of crops like pulse and mustard as well, he said.

Addressing as chief guest, Sayedul Islam, secretary of agriculture ministry,  said with its large population, Bangladesh needs to produce its own food, and this is the prime target of the ministry.

Margherita Capalbi, programme manager (agriculture, food security and nutrition) at Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, said they are committed to support Bangladesh to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, which is achieving “zero hunger”.

Rudaba Khondker, country director of The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, said enhancing policies is important to address nutrition deficiency in Bangladesh.

Shahjahan Kabir, director general of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, said since rice is the staple food in Bangladesh, adding micronutrients to it is crucial to fight nutrition deficiency.

Khairul Bashar, country manager of HarvestPlus; Benojir Alam, director general of Department of Agricultural Extension; Saiqa Siraj, country director of Nutrition International; and Mary Rashid, team leader of World Vision’s BIeNGS project, among others, spoke at the event.

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