Introduction. The Philippines has been implementing mandatory rice fortification with iron with the passage of Republic Act (RA) 8976 or the Philippine Food Fortification Act on 7 November 2000 with full implementation in 2004.

In 2005, the Food for School Program (FSP) of the Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Program used iron fortified rice (IFR) with iron-rice kernel (IRK) coated with ferrous sulfate. The FSP involved the provision of a kilo of rice to Grade 1 and preschool children enrolled in identified public elementary schools; and all children 3-4 years old in identified DSWD-supervised day care centers. The National Food Authority (NFA) provided the IFR requirements of the program up to early 2010.

In addition, IFR was served in food service establishments in Davao City based on an executive order by then Mayor and now President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in 2007. It was also during this time that the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) was developing hot extrusion technology with micronized ferric pyrophosphate as fortificant and blenders. FNRI started transferring the technology in 2013 resulting in localized rice fortification activities in Orion, Bataan, and the provinces of Zambales and Davao de Oro, without much success except in Davao de Oro.

In 2014, the Philippine delegation participating the workshop on Scaling Up Rice Fortification in Asia agreed to initially focus rice fortification on social safety net programs. This was in recognition of the need to ensure access of the more vulnerable to IFR in the context of the challenge of fortifying the volume of rice consumed in the Philippines (about 10.2 MT).

In 2018, RA 11037 on mandatory feeding of malnourished children in public elementary schools and child development centers (formerly called day care centers) was passed. Among others, the law institutionalized the use of fortified foods in these feeding programs.
In 2019, the World Food Programme (WFP) conducted a pilot study on the use of IFR in the school feeding program in Maguindanao Province. The IFR was produced using local IRK from Pangasinan Province, local rice and the blending facilities of NFA. The pilot study demonstrated successfully that IFR with rice from local farmers can be used in school feeding programs.

In 2020, President Duterte issued an executive order organizing the Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger (IATF-ZH) headed by the Cabinet Secretary. Several meetings of the IATF-ZH and conduct of two (2) Kumain (literally means to eat) webinars among cooperatives and government agencies in 2021 resulted to a surge in rice fortification activities, with support from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that increased producers of IFR and purchase of IFR by the Department of Education (DepEd).

It is in this context that WFP Philippines, with support from Japan-based partners from WFP, International Life Sciences Institute and DSM, decided to conduct a study on the overall rice fortification capacities, supply chain, and campaign initiatives in the Philippines.


Overall objective. The study aimed to determine supply chain, advocacy, and campaign gaps that could explain the low supply, acceptance, and consumption of iron-fortified rice.

Specific objectives were to map iron-rice fortification capacities and campaign initiatives of the Philippines, and to identify the supply chain issues that hinder the implementation of mandatory rice fortification as stipulated in RA 8976.

Expected output include recommendations along:

  • Most cost-effective and efficient delivery of IFR to target recipients;
  • Strategies for the increased consumption of IFR through social safety net programs, and commercialization on the supply side, i.e., IRK suppliers and IFR producers through rice millers, distributors and retailers and involving local farmers and communities for access to the technology for the production of IFR; and
  • Communication strategies for increased knowledge and acceptance of IFR by consumers, local officials, non-government organizations, and other stakeholders.

Methodology. The study involved a desk review of previous researches and activities on rice fortification. Key informant interviews (KIIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs) were done covering stakeholders based on a framework on the ecosystem of rice fortification. KIIs covered 7 producers of iron-rice kernels, 11 iron fortified rice producers, 4 machine fabricators and importers, 4 farmers cooperatives and a rice mill in BARMM, representatives of 4 agencies involved in social safety net programs (feeding programs and disaster response), representatives from DOST at national and regional levels, and representatives of 4 government agencies or organizations in BARMM The results of the desk review, KIIs, and FGDs were analyzed as basis for the recommendations for rice fortification.

Results and discussion. Current IFR production capacity is 181,440 MTs/year or only 1.81% of the fortifiable rice of 10.2 million MT.

An analysis of the supply of IFR vs demand from feeding programs of the DepEd and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) shows the presence of the capacity to produce up to 181,440 MT of IFR, more than three times higher than the 55,233 MT of IFR needed by DepEd and DSWD.

The maximum capacity to produce IRK is 1,359.36 MT, almost 5 times higher than the IRK needed to produce the IFR for DepEd and DSWD programs.

Currently, there are 2 producers of IRK and 2 importers of IRK and multi nutrient rice kernels. Two more IRK producers are expected once their production facility is operational by the end of 2022. There are 10 producers of IFR while an additional 8 producers of IFR will be operating by the end of 2023. Most of these IFR producers are in Luzon. DOST and FNRI provided financial and technical support, respectively to most IFR producers. NFA started pilot testing of the production of IFR in 4 regions with a target of full production of 50% (150,000 MTs) of its buffer stocks by 2023. In addition, 25 potential IFR producers have requested FNRI for technical support. These requests are being evaluated. Given this scenario, production of IFR is expected to increase substantially in 2022-2023 and would be more than enough to supply IFR to the feeding programs of DepEd and DSWD. However, based on the mapping of producers of IFR, currently there are no producers in the Visayas and 2 in Mindanao. This presents supply chain concerns especially along the cost of distribution for the use of IFR in these areas.

According to the producers, there is an additional cost of P4 due to fortification. A little more than half (about P1.88 to P2.25/kg of rice) of this additional cost is contributed by IRK, (locally priced at P375 – P450/kg). An IFR producer estimates the cost of blending at P65/50 kg or P1.30/kg. However, NFA’s cost of blending is only at P35/50 kg or 0.70/kg. Another element of the cost of fortification is FNRI’s royalty fee for technology adoption, which is 2% of total sales.

Distribution and logistics are a significant factor to consider in the supply chain of IFR since most of the IRK and IFR producers are in the island group of Luzon. Transporting IFR or IRK from Luzon to the Visayas and Mindanao can add P2-5/kg more in addition to the cost of fortification. Thus, the FNRI evaluation of requests for technology adoption should consider the lack of IRK and IFR producers in the Visayas and Mindanao Island groups.

Other supply chain concerns are on the fortification of imported rice and quality monitoring of IFR producers as the regulatory function of NFA in the rice industry has been discontinued through RA 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law. These issues have not yet been resolved.
Advocacy and communications campaigns on IFR were more localized, while current advocacy efforts at the national level are focused on the production of IFR. Advocacy and promotion of IFR in Region 1 and Davao de Oro could be considered as models that can be replicated in other regions and provinces. A communication plan to promote IFR was formulated in 2016 but was not implemented. In addition, various information education and communication materials targeting local government units and consumers were developed in 2018 but were not used due to issues on the supply of IFR.

The main source of information of consumers on nutrition and rice fortification is television, health centers and social media.

Conclusions and recommendations:
The Philippines has the capacity to fortify rice for the requirements of mandatory feeding programs in public elementary schools and child development centers. However, this capacity exceeds the requirements of mandatory feeding programs. Furthermore, the capacity to produce IFR is relatively weak in the Visayas and Mindanao since most of the IRK and IFR producers are in the Luzon regions.

For more cost-effective and efficient distribution, the first recommendation is to reduce the cost of fortification by half by 1) considering alternative and less costly sources of micronized pyrophosphate, 2) reducing the cost of blending, and 3) revising the FNRI royalty fee requirement. The resulting cost is within consumer affordability based on the results of the FGDs.

In addition, the guiding principle of bringing the sites of production of both IRK and IFR closer to each other is recommended to be adopted. DOST and FNRI being primary supporters of IFR production are key gatekeepers in this regard, and a focus should be the Visayas and Mindanao. Continued use of an acidic compound is likewise recommended together with efforts to ensure quality fortification.

To increase consumption of IFR, market expansion is recommended to cover 1) social safety net programs of non-government organizations, government institutions that use rice like hospitals and jails, private companies that give rice allowance to their employees, and 2) commercial market. In addition, relevant policies on the use of IFR from national government agencies like the Departments of Health, the Interior and Local Government, Labor and Employment and local government units (in the form of local ordinances or laws) are recommended to be issued and implemented.

To increase the demand for IFR, an advocacy and communication plan can be formulated and implemented to assist local producers on how best to distribute IFR targeting national, local government, and non-government organizations that can use IFR, as well as consumers. Experiences in Region 1 and Davao de Oro could be shared for adaptation by other regions and LGUs. KUMAIN webinars of the IATF-ZH and DOST regional seminars could continue to be implemented to increase the supply and demand for IFR. To reach out to consumers to use IFR, social media channels and bulk text messaging could be used together. Existing interpersonal communication channels can be tapped, e.g., the nutrition education component of the Tutok Kainan Program of the National Nutrition Council (NNC), family development sessions of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and parents’ effectiveness sessions of the DSWD, parent-teacher association orientations and meetings. The 2016-developed communication plan can be a starting point for this effort.

Finally, given the number of recommendations provided in the report, the next step would be the development of an interagency strategic and operational plan that will become the basis for the funding and implementation of the Philippine Rice Fortification Program which can be initiated by IATF-ZH and NNC and advocated as a priority program of the next administration.

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