- The county has been losing revenue as farmers continue to languish in poverty due to over exploitation by middlemen
- Lack of milling plant has prompted brokers to buy the unpolished grain for as low as Sh40 per kilo
Rice farmers in Taveta subcounty, Taita Taveta county have been urged to increase production ahead of the construction of a rice milling factory.
The Sh45 million factory is set to benefit hundreds of rice farmers who have been selling unpolished rice to brokers and middlemen at throw-away prices.
The mill will complement other mobile milling machines and will double the income generated from rice farming.
Deputy Governor Christine Kilalo said they have already advertised the tender to procure and install the plant at Mboghoni ward.
“This factory is aimed at boosting rice production in the area. It will also be vital in processing rice in order to increase the current price from Sh40 to Sh85,” she said during a site visit to the proposed ground on Tuesday.
She said the county has been losing revenue as farmers continue to languish in poverty due to over exploitation by middlemen.
Kilalo said brokers take the product to Tanzania for value addition before selling it back at a higher cost.
“Lack of milling plant has prompted brokers to buy the unpolished grain for as low as Sh40 per kilo," she said.
The deputy governor said the plant will create jobs for unemployed people in the area.
This comes even as the county is working to drain excess water in Buruma rice fields for large and medium scale farming.
The 18,000 acre field is the largest rice growing area in Taveta.
The county is targeting to get at least 30,000 acres projection of rice production annually upon reclaiming the land.
Meanwhile, Kilalo said, the county government has a deal with the National Cereals and Produce Board to buy local rice at Sh55 per kg.
She urged farmers to take advantage of the brokered deal as county kick starts plans to set up the rice mill.
Once completed, the factory will help farmers produce high-quality rice that meets the standards and preferences of consumers.
The rice factory will also produce by-products such as rice bran, rice husks, which can be used as animal feeds and fuel.
Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation executive Erickson Kyongo said the department is also assisting farmers to produce high quality grain and reduce post-harvest losses.
“We also want to reduce post-harvest losses, eliminate predatory cartels and boost farmer earnings," he said.
Food and Agriculture Organisation says an estimated 10-15 per cent of rice is lost during post-harvest operations in developing countries.
The losses are attributed to poor handling, storage, transportation, pests, diseases and weather among other factors.
Kyongo said in order to improve production, sustain the market and increase income, rice farming needs to be increased from the current 14,000 acres to 36,000 acres.
Kenya produces at least 200,000 metric tonnes of rice annually which is half of the consumption demand.
This means it has a deficit of between 500,000 to 600,000 metric tonnes.
The deficit is offset by imports, mainly from Pakistan, Thailand, India and Vietnam.
To narrow the supply gap, the country needs at least 450,000 acres of land under production for it to be food secure.