Muhammad Motaher Hossen Monir (Hossen) grew up in Khochabari union in the Thakurgaon district of northern Bangladesh. It is here where his father started a rice husking mill in 1976 and where he continues to live today with his wife and three children. Hossen’s family converted the original mill to an automatic rice mill in 2009, mechanizing the operations and adding flexibility to improve the quality of the milling process. In doing so, their Dui Vai Auto Rice Mill increased its capacity to be able to supply between half a million and one million people with milled rice to eat.
When Hossen started the business, he milled several popular varieties of rice. Then, in 2018, Hossen heard about biofortified zinc rice from an implementing partner of HarvestPlus called RDRS. After learning about the benefits of zinc and its importance for health, Hossen tried eating zinc rice with his family. Convinced of its benefit, especially for children and mothers, he committed to using his family business to mill and distribute zinc rice for the benefit of his friends, families, and neighbors.
HarvestPlus has been promoting and distributing zinc rice to Bangladeshi households since 2013 through its core program and donor-funded projects. Today, Hossen’s business directly contributes to the 18-month Canadian-funded project implemented by HarvestPlus, “Integrated Food Systems Approach to Build Nutrition Security,” which is providing urgent nutrition and livelihood relief to approximately two million Bangladeshis who are especially vulnerable to poor nutrition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am happy providing not only rice but nutritious zinc rice to consumers across the country,” said Hossen proudly. Nearly a third of the population of Bangladesh is estimated to have insufficient zinc in their diet for maintaining good health. “There is huge demand for zinc rice in the market. Aggregating the required quantity is the main challenge at the moment,” he added.
Today, the mill employs more than 300 staff and is one of the largest in Thakurgaon region. In 2021, through the Government of Canada-funded project, Hossen produced and marketed approximately 260 metric tons of biofortified zinc rice and launched his own brand, Jora Kobutor, broadening awareness of zinc biofortification and ensuring greater nutrition is integrated into his local and the national rice markets.
Hossen took many steps between 2018 and 2021 to identify and secure a bulk supply of zinc rice grain for milling. In partnership with RDRS, he identified farmers who had received zinc rice seed from HarvestPlus and produced the nutrient-enriched grain in Thakurgaon. Working together with these farmers and HarvestPlus, Hossen aggregated a bulk supply of zinc rice. At the same time, HarvestPlus developed and operationalized 90 points of purchase for zinc rice across the country, including six in Thakurgaon. By 2020, demand had grown significantly, and Hossen sold out his total production of zinc rice through these selected points of purchase.
The milled rice from Dui Vai Auto Rice Mill now reaches 11 wholesalers in districts within the northern Bangladesh Division of Rangpur, where 30 percent of children under five years old are stunted, 17 percent of women are of short stature, and 20 percent of men are thin. Other millers have also adopted zinc rice and are adding to the supply of biofortified rice in these and other areas across the country.