The RiceX Company is to manufacture a nutrition drink for children from a new facility in Central America. The plant will be funded by a $6 million loan from government agency the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
The California-based company will purchase rice bran from rice mills in the region and convert it to a nutritious powdered drink mix which will be distributed to rural Central American children with malnutrition.
The program marks a first step in international growth for the small company. Dr Peter Watson, president and CEO of OPIC, said: "By combining American know-how with an under-utilized agricultural resource, the project will establish a business model that could very well be duplicated on a global basis."
Ike Lynch, vice president of operations and international business development for RiceX, which makes food ingredients from stabilized rice bran, said that the facility allows the company to significantly reduce the cost of its nutrition drink to the point that it is cost competitive with other less efficient sources of nutrition.
"Once the facility becomes operational, we will be able to reach 1 million needy children per day with significant positive impact on malnutrition and infant mortality rates," he said.
RiceX says the business model for the concept was proven in 2001 when RiceX and the Christian Children's Fund teamed to provide the RiceX nutrition drink to 67,000 Guatemalan school children each day. The drink successfully decreased malnutrition among the test group, says the company. Funding for the purchase and distribution of the RiceX nutrition drink was provided by the USDA's Food Aid Program.