The case of Wantiya that caught the attention of many


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Abay Bank's seven million birr logo. The case of Wantiya caught the attention of many. Recognizing the urgency and potential for transformation, the Ethiopian government has taken a proactive stance by endorsing mandatory food fortification. Edible oil and wheat flour, widely consumed by the population, are being fortified with essential nutrients to ensure their availability to all segments of society. Potassium iodide addresses iodine deficiencies, which can lead to severe health issues, particularly affecting brain development and thyroid function.

 

“We don’t get adequate micronutrients from our staple food. Thus, there is the need to replace nutrients lost during food processing or increase the nutrient density of staple foods,” said Solomon Hassen, Multisectoral and Seqota Declaration Officer. Edible oil is a crucial component of the Ethiopian diet, and fortifying it with essential nutrients holds tremendous promise for improving public health. By adding vitamins such as vitamins A and D, often deficient in the population, fortified edible oil can enhance overall nutritional intake and combat the prevalence of deficiencies. 

 

This measure will have a far-reaching impact, particularly on vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, lactating mothers, and young children, who require adequate nutrition for optimal growth and development. According to Addise Gakebo, the head of the Ethiopian Edible Oil Association, there won’t be any price increase on fortified oils compared to the existing prices. “We are working with the Food and Drug Administration, Industry Minister, and Trade Minister so that these feared price increases won’t happen,” he told EBR. 

 

Addise further highlighted that the industry faces minimal challenges in fortifying edible oil. However, he acknowledged that a common issue manufacturers face is the shortage of foreign currency. Regarding this, Addise mentioned, “The government has given a solution to the matter by giving licenses to private suppliers so that the factories can buy it directly from them without the need for foreign exchange.”

 

There are 32 edible oil industries with a refinery system. Out of these, 28 sectors are currently operational, indicating edible oil’s active production and processing. Additionally, four factories are currently in the project phase. Notably, four industries have already implemented the practice of edible oil fortification. Wheat flour is another staple food widely consumed in Ethiopia. By fortifying wheat flour with essential nutrients such as folic acid and other B vitamins, the government aims to address the high prevalence of neural tube defects.

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