A Sh400 million rice research institute is to be set up in Budalang'i, Busia County, to boost the production and marketing of the crop in western Kenya.
The project to will be funded by the Venezuela government.
Head of Rice Promotion Programme in the Ministry of Agriculture Jane Ndung’u said Busia would be the only county in Kenya to benefit from the funding.
“The institute will develop new breeding products for lowland rice ecologies and also come up with quality grain that is tolerance to major biotic stresses,” said Ms Ndung’u.
“Rice is a strategic food crop that the national government has included under the Food Security pillar of the Big Four Agenda. We want Busia County to add value and boost uptake of their rice in the market.”
Speaking during a meeting with officials from the Department of Agriculture, led by county executive Moses Osia, Ms Ndung'u said the money for the project is with the Treasury awaiting disbursement.
The head of rice promotion also assessed various rice groups that will benefit from equipment for mechanised rice production during her two-day visit to the county.
Madagascar is the other country in Africa to receive the funds. Madagascar has already completed its project, while Kenya's is still at design stage. Ms Ndung'u said the Ministry of Public Works is expected to hand over the designs to the contractor once complete.
China National Rice Research Institute had previously partnered with Bunyala Irrigation Scheme in effort to study and enhance production of the crop.
Dr Osia thanked the national government for picking Busia for the project, saying it will help create job opportunities and identify the best rice varieties for specific regions in the county.
Robert Musanya, the chairperson of Bunyala Rice Farmers Cooperative Society, said that the proposed institute will help them maximise on production through value addition.
Mr Musanya said lack of a modern processing facility had forced farmers to sell their produce at low prices for fear of incurring losses from poor storage.
“Currently we are selling unprocessed rice to Kisumu and Uganda markets at lowly price of Sh3,000 per bag. Processed rice fetches between Sh4,500 and Sh5,000 depending on the variety,” he said.
The irrigation scheme has two rice farmers' societies, namely Bunyala and Magombe Multipurpose Cooperative.
They have a combined capacity to produce over 5,000 90kg bags of Pishori Basmati rice and a local variety commonly known as Sindano every season. The farmers are expecting more than 9,000 bags from the over 1,500 acres.
Early this year Deputy President William Ruto said the government would set up a milling plant in the area as part of the Sh 10billion Lower Nzoia irrigation scheme.