ZIMBABWE – Grain millers have appealed to Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa to intervene and defer the implementation of the mandatory food fortification programme indefinitely.

Government has decreed through Statutory Instrument 120 of 2016 that the public health intervention should have started July 1.

It seeks to prevent micronutrient deficiencies by adding minute levels of vitamins and minerals to foods during processing.

The food vehicles targeted for fortification are maize meal, cooking oil, sugar and wheat flour.

Sugar will be fortified with vitamin A; cooking oil with vitamin A and D; and wheat flour and maize meal with vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, iron and zinc.

Only fortification of salt with iodine is mandatory in Zimbabwe now, and fortification of the above mentioned food vehicles has become mandatory starting July 1.

The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (Gmaz) has stayed its legal action and appealed to Mnangagwa to force Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa — who has refused to give an extension on the implementation of the fortification programme — to budge.

This comes as oil pressers have also asked for a 12-month extension of the policy implementation, arguing they were facing critical foreign currency constraints, fortification equipment problems and non-availability of fortificants locally.

GMAZ chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara said in the July 3 letter to Mnangagwa: “We are requesting your esteemed office to kindly assist the grain milling industry in having the mandatory fortification programme deferred indefinitely until the following is achieved: Extensive and nationwide engagement of consumers and all other key stakeholders on the subject of fortification.”

The association was appealing to Mnangagwa as the chairperson of the Cabinet Committee on Food Security and Nutrition and as leader of the Command Agriculture programme.

The millers are proposing that the deferment be indefinite until there has been establishment of local fortificant producers and proper training of milling laboratory staff.

“(Should be deferred until) establishment of local manufacturing of food fortificants and food dossier machinery; crafting of an effective fortification operation plan that will precisely deliver to affected population segments;  comprehensive training of milling laboratory staff in pre-production testing and production application and  indemnification of participating millers against arising lawsuit consequent to application of fortificants.

“The waiver provision offered by Health (ministry) is not useful and relevant as ultimately all millers had to comply.

“We are most importantly, worried that this mandatory fortification exercise which is fatally coinciding with the commencement of the funding of $200 million by millers for maize grown under the Command Agriculture programme, will dissuade my members to extend the funds and consequently prejudicing farmers and the general architecture of the Command Agriculture programme,” the letter read.

A survey by the Daily News revealed that there was a slow start to the fortification programme, with supermarket shelves containing both fortified and unfortified products.

Most sugar products have been fortified, together with cereals, but maize meal and cooking oil is yet to be fortified.

July 6, 2017: Daily News