A webinar had been organized recently by International Zinc Association (IZA) by partnering with Hindustan Zinc Limited (HZL) and India Lead Zinc Development Association (ILZDA), that had a discussion related to addressing micronutrient deficiency by encouraging the use of Zinc fertilizer and its raw materials to address Food and Nutrition Security.
Many prominent speakers were part of the event such as Kailash Choudhary, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India; Dr. Andrew Green, Executive Director, IZA, USA; Arun Misra, CEO, Hindustan Zinc Limited; L Pugazhenthy, Executive Director, India Lead Zinc Development Association (ILZDA); Dr. Sabina Grund, Manager – Sustainable Development, International Zinc Association, Belgium; Dr. Peter Robinson, International Consultant, Integrated Resource Management, Canada; Neeraj Kedia, Managing Director, Chakradhar Chemicals and a few others who had highlighted the importance of micronutrients and zinc fertilizers in food and nutrition security, while also stressing on the efforts that were required to be made to look out for the possibility of an alternate source of raw material, one of them being primary zinc source in the coming future.
The Minister spoke about the efforts taken by the Ministry and GoI under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that included supply of fortified crops and fertilizer subsidy. The Minister went on to address the audience and stated as follows – Absence of micronutrient like Zinc has been shown to have a direct impact on the crop output which therefore is detrimental to food security. We have been working towards strengthening the backward linkages such as the infrastructure upgradation of soil testing, deploying relevant research & development into creation of micronutrient fertilizers, creation of awareness amongst relevant stakeholders. We are committed to achieving these targets in the years to come.”
Arun Misra, while addressing the audience mentioned as follows –
“The importance of Zinc in strengthening our immunity and protecting us cannot be emphasized enough, as the pandemic has shown the world. Compound that with the deficiency of this key micronutrient in our natural everyday food is a concern that requires all stakeholders to urgently and collectively work towards food fortification. As a conscious step, we at Hindustan Zinc have partnered with IZA and commissioned the study of new and innovative products and technologies to convert primary zinc to raw materials for zinc fertilizer production. We have also initiated a zinc fertilizer trial on a farmland at Udaipur in Rajasthan, India to enable Agri-solutions for nutrition security. At a strategic level, in order to achieve the greater objective of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations that aims to eradicate hunger, poverty and malnutrition by 2030 by the signatory countries, including India, a favourable and conducive micronutrient policy is inevitable for ensuring the food, nutrition and health security of the country and our people.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 8,00,000 people lose their lives every year due to zinc deficiency, of which 4,50,000 are children who are under the age of five. As per the UNICEF, there has been an alarmingly high rate of deaths in children below five years that are being seen country-wise, especially from diarrhea and pneumonia, which further is being attributed to zinc deficiency, which is even higher than the Sub-Saharan African countries or the neighboring countries. In India, states like Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have reported severe zinc deficiency in their soils as high as 60% with an average deficit of about 40%.
Dr. Andrew Green while speaking at the conference stated – “For the agricultural sector to grow, not only does the farm production and productivity need improvement but the quality of output needs to be looked at simultaneously. Adding micronutrients such as zinc has not only proven to enhance crop yield and water uptake but also results in healthier, stronger crops. PM Narendra Modi’s recent announcement to supply fortified grains to the impoverished is yet another remarkable move in boosting food and nutrition security in the country and we’re hopeful that it will certainly boost Zn biofortification.”