The Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) has said introducing duty waiver on food fortificants as is the case in other countries will improve consumers intake of micronutrients.
Cama executive director John Kapito said this in an interview in Lilongwe on Friday on the sidelines of a meeting between the National Fortification Alliance (NFA), chief executive officers and managers of industries that produce fortified foods.
He said trends on the market indicate that consumers opt for unfortified foods which are sold at a cheaper price, disregarding fortified foods whose cost is slightly higher to cover the cost of fortificants—extra nutrients added to food products to increase nutritional value.
“It is a worrisome situation because in the end two parties are dying silently, the local producers of fortified foods and the consumers themselves.
“The solution is to waive or reduce duty on fortificants so that the cost of fortified foods is reasonable,” said Kapito.
He said food manufacturers spend more on imports of forticicants such as zinc, iodine and iron which in turn affects the price of fortified foods and unscrupulous traders capitalise on this to flood the market with counterfeit unfortified foods at a lower cost.
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism spokesperson Wiskes Nkombezi said government introduced mandatory fortification of foods such as sugar, salt and cooking oil with nutrients such as vitamin A and iodine to ensure that many people access them in their diets.
“The first move was to fortify sugar and cooking oil, but we formed the NFA to facilitate scaling up to other products with a variety of fortificants so that people access them easily,” he said.
Nkombezi agreed with Kapito that smugglers pose a threat to government efforts of fighting stunting and malnutrition by flooding the market with unfortified foods, but he said compliance among food fortifying industries is positive.
Ministry of Health director of nutrition Felix Pensulo-Phiri said 37 percent of people in Malawi are stunted due to insufficient consumption of required micronutrients.
He said the only way to improve the situation is to encourage food fortification with the nutrients so that people access them as they eat.
Phiri said in 2015-16, the ministry undertook a Micronutrient Survey which revealed high levels of anemia which is a result of insufficient iron in the body and also vitamin A, zinc and iodine deficiency.
Malawi Bureau of Standards deputy director Willy Muyila said the bureau is working in collaboration with Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to check all imported goods to ensure that they come in the right way and meet the required Malawi standards. n