Rice prices increase on low local output, expensive imports

Farmers transplant rice seedlings in Ruambua village in Budalang’i, Busia County. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Farmers transplant rice seedlings in Ruambua village in Budalang’i, Busia County. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Rice prices have increased further in October following a steep decline in local production and expensive imports, piling pressure on households that are already grappling with the high cost of living.

A kilogramme of Pishori rice in cereals stores in Nairobi has increased by an average of Sh30 in the past three weeks to trade at between Sh230 and Sh210, up from Sh160 in January.

The increase result from the current shortage of the grain in the market that has seen major millers hit by the lack of paddy to mill.

The factory gate price for a kilogramme of Pishori rice at Mwea Irrigation Scheme increased from Sh145 in January to Sh200 early this month.

Mwea is Kenya’s largest irrigation scheme, whose performance impacts the volumes of the grain available in the market as well as the pricing.

Rice production in the region has dropped by 40 per cent this year, pushing Kenya to rely more on imports.

Innocent Ariemba, a manager at Mwea Irrigation Scheme, says the price of the commodity will remain high until mid-next month when harvest from the fields is expected to commence.

“The prices will remain high until mid-November when we expect a new crop in the market,” said Mr Ariemba.

The value of rice imports increased to Sh15.89 billion in the six months to June, up from Sh6.6 billion in the same period last year.

The volume of imported rice rose to 353,082 tonnes from 261,819 tonnes in the same period last year, a pointer that a unit cost of imported grain increased by more than 50 per cent.

Kenya produces 150,000 tonnes of rice in a year creating a deficit of 250,000 that is met through imports from world’s major producers.

Rice consumption has been growing every year by 10 per cent and now it stands at 400,000 tonnes annually, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Mwea Irrigation Scheme, which accounts for 80 per cent of Kenya’s rice production, was hit by drought.