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Bumper rice output to reduce imports

Mwea Irrigation scheme
A woman threshes rice on a rock during harvesting time at Mwea Irrigation scheme in Kirinyaga county. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya will this year cut rice imports by 36 percent following above average production in major irrigation schemes.

Water and Irrigation Principal Secretary Joseph Irungu said the country anticipates production of 240,000 tonnes of rice, which is almost double the output in the previous year.

Kenya mainly relies on imports to bridge the local deficit, bringing in up to 250,000 tonnes annually to meet the demand.

“We are expecting a good crop this year and this will play a major role in cutting down on imports, hence benefiting our farmers,” said Mr Irungu.

National Irrigation Board (NIB) general manager Gitonga Mugambi said the production has resulted from good crop husbandry and expansion of the crop to regions.

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“This year’s crop will be above average and this results from expanded area under the crop as we have introduced rice in Bura,” he said.

Production at the Mwea Irrigation has been on the rise since 2016 when the scheme witnessed one of the worst droughts in a decade that saw output drop by more than half.

In 2016, 24,000 tonnes were harvested, followed by 77,000 tonnes in 2017 and 87,000 tonnes last year. The scheme is projected to yield about 180,000 tonnes in the current season.

Mwea I scheme accounts for 80 percent of Kenya’s rice production. Rice consumption has been growing by 10 per cent yearly and now stands at 400,000 tonnes, according to State data.

Improved production has seen the price of the commodity stay at a low of Sh130 at the factory currently from a high of Sh160 previously.

The PS said Kenya wants to expand the area under crop in order to increase production and cut overreliance on imports.

“We are in talks with the Treasury to allocate this project more funds so that we can increase the area under crop cover,” he said.

Mwea Scheme has a gazetted area of 30,350 acres out of which 22,000 have been developed for paddy rice production while the remaining area is utilised for settlement, public utilities and growing of subsistence crops.

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