Rice imports up 30pc to meet rising demand


Bags of rice at a Multipurpose Cooperative Society store. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

Rice imports between January and July increased 31 percent on the back of a local deficit and a growing consumption in the country.

Data from the Ministry of Agriculture indicates that the volumes imported rose to 2.5 million bags of 90kg in the review period, from 1.9 million kilos in corresponding period last year.

Rice consumption has been growing 10 percent yearly and now stands at over 400,000 tonnes, according to State data.

July recorded a huge jump in volumes compared with June as traders shipped in 107,000 bags of the grain from 57,000 a month earlier.

The total quantity of rice imported from January to July stands at 2.5 million (90kg) bags compared to 1.9 million bags imported in the same period in 2020,” said the ministry.

Annual rice production in Kenya stands at between 35,000 and 50,000 tonnes, in what has seen Kenya import over 70 percent of the commodidty to meet the annual needs.

Huge volumes of rice consumed in Kenya come from Pakistan. The high commission for Pakistan said recently that they are keen to increase the volumes of rice that come to Kenya, pointing out that the country is a leading importer of the produce in East African region.

Mwea irrigation scheme accounts for 80 percent of Kenya’s rice production playing a major role in supply of the grain in the country that relies on imports to bridge the deficit. Kenya produces 150,000 tonnes a year creating a deficit of 250,000 met through imports.

The cheaper imports, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, is sold at low prices and then blended with Mwea Aromatic Pishori rice to be traded as pishori variety, at a cheaper price, knocking off demand for the original variety that Mwea is known for.

The Agriculture ministry Rice Promotion Programme Unit says the practice is illegal and should be stopped with those found engaging in the illicit business should be arrested and prosecuted.

The country is opening up more land for growing rice as it seeks to cut cheap imports that have on many occasions impacted negatively to farmers who grow the crop locally.

For instance, National Irrigation Authority is promoting growing of rice in regions where the crop has not been planted before, especially with the introduction of rice varieties that do not require flooding (irrigation).