The Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) has bought rice worth US $2.8m from farmers in Mwea, Kirinyaga County, following the presidential directive issued in March.
A kilogram of rice is being bought at US$0.80 (Ksh.85) and farmers have delivered 9m kilos of their produce to their Mwea Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society’s stores. Initially, unprocessed rice sold at US $0.42 (Ksh.45).
KNTC Chief Executive Officer Timothy Mirugi said the presidential directive must be implemented and urged the farmers to be patient. When President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Kirinyaga recently, he directed KNTC to buy the rice to protect farmers, who grow the crop at the giant Mwea Irrigation Scheme, from exploitation by brokers.
Protection from brokes
He noted that for decades, farmers had been exploited by middlemen, making it difficult for them to break even. Brokers normally offer between US $0.42(Ksh45) and US $0.47 (Ksh50) per kilogram of rice and farmers had been complaining that the prices were too low.
These prices made it difficult for farmers to make profits since the brokers took advantage of the lack of markets for their produce to buy the commodity at a throwaway price.
The Mwea scheme produces 80% of rice consumed in Kenya. However, the production is not enough and Kenya has to import more rice to cater for the deficit.
Currently the government is constructing the US $188,582 Thiba Dam in Rukenya village, Gichugu Constituency to boost rice farming so that the country can produce enough for its rising population and surplus for export.