• The farmers previously sold unprocessed rice to brokers at Sh60 per Kilogramme.
• Poor prices have been blamed on cheap imports that saturate the local market.
Mwea rice farmers are pleased by the government’s announcement that it will buy their unprocessed rice for Sh85 a kilogramme.
President Uhuru Kenyatta made the announcement during a visit to the region last week. The president ordered the Ministry of Agriculture to act swiftly. He said the government had set up a Sh500 million revolving fund that will be used to buy rice from farmers.
Uhuru added that the Kenya National Trading Cooperation would buy rice directly and sell it to public institutions such as schools, prisons, the police and army barracks, which have been instructed to consume locally grown rice. Farmers will receive their payments through their cooperative societies.
The news came as a sigh of relief following complaints about exploitation by unscrupulous middlemen who have been buying for Sh60. Governor Ann Waiguru had called for the government’s intervention, saying farmers had been selling their produce at a throwaway price. She expressed fears that many farmers would abandon rice farming because of poor prices.
On Monday, Governor Waiguru said the interventions announced by the government would alleviate poverty. She visited a rice mill at Wang’uru. Waiguru said the measures will help control cheap rice imports that have been saturating the local market and occasioning losses to farmers. She said the cheap imports are of low quality.
"The offer by the government to buy rice from farmers comes as a great relief to them after suffering losses for a long time," she said.
The governor urged the government to impose more levies on imported rice to discourage importation and create a bigger demand for local rice. She expressed confidence that private millers will be compelled to increase their prices after the government fixes the prices at Sh85. Farmers will also benefit from subsidised fertilisers, which, previously, only reached a few.
"Genuine farmers have been missing out on the subsidised fertiliser as it was bought by unscrupulous people who then sold it to farmers at exorbitant prices," Waiguru said.
She asked the Agriculture ministry to ensure the fertiliser is sold to farmers according to their acreage.
Wang’uru town, whose main economic activity is rice trade, will also benefit from the tarmacking of 30 kilometres of roads. Construction works are expected to start in April. The enhanced road network will boost the movement of people and goods, hence enabling rice business to boom.
The county government is also upgrading 230km roads that cut through the Mwea irrigation scheme. Waiguru said 15km will be upgraded every day. The county road construction machinery will focus on the project.
The devolved unit also plans to build a rice husk factory that will make boards out of the husks that normally go to waste. The boards will be used to make furniture, among other things. This is part of the value addition programme meant to ensure farmers boost their incomes.