•LBDA Chairman Odoyo Owidi said the authority was ready to buy paddy from farmers.
•The authority had allocated Sh100 million to buy rice from farmers in Kisumu and Homa Bay.
Stranded Ahero rice farmers have been told to take their paddies to the Lake Basin Development Authority mill for buying.
The farmers at the weekend said they were stuck with produce worth Sh30 million because there was no market.
Lake Basin Development Authority chairman Odoyo Owidi on Tuesday said the agency was ready to but the rice to empower the farmers.
He asked farmers to immediately take their harvest to the authority's mill where they will be bought.
Noting that the authority has the purchasing capacity, he called on farmers to immediately take their produce to the mill.
“The mill is open and farmers should take advantage of that and do business. We are committed to empowering farmers,” Odoyo said.
The chairman said the authority had allocated Sh100 million to buy rice from farmers in Kisumu and Homa Bay counties.
Western Kenya schemes senior manager Joel Tanui said farmers were facing problems due to lack of market. He said rice was rotting in stores due to lack of market.
Tanui said they were aware the LBDA was in touch with farmers but had not yet bought rice from farmers as earlier anticipated.
“We have over 11,000 hectares of rice fields in the region and in one season farmers produce an average of 26,000 metric tonnes of paddy rice," he said.
He said farmers had put 100 per cent of their land under cultivation as the National Irrigation Board had provided key infrastructure and sustainable water supply.
“Farmers are worried about lack of market since this is the peak of harvesting and it is expected to go until January next year," Tanui said.
"We are also telling the national government that rice already in the stores can be purchased for the Strategic Grain Reserve to cushion farmers from losses.”
Recently, Lake Basin Development Company acting general manager Beatrice Okoko said plans are underway to install a new milling machine.
The company, a subsidiary of LBDA, deals with paddy processing.
Okoko said they purchase paddy from farmers in Bunyala (Busia ), Lower Kuja (Migori), Oluch-Kimira Irrigation Scheme (Homa Bay), West Kano and Ahero schemes in Kisumu.
The rice mill had dropped its production capacity. "The upgrade by procuring a new mill will enable the company to take more paddy from farmers,” Okoko said.
LBDA managing director Raymond Omollo said the upgrade is meant to address food sufficiency and nutrition in line with the government’s Big Four agenda.
He said production capacity will increase from 1.1 tonnes to 3.5 tonnes per hour after the new mill is installed.
"Our aim is to improve our crushing capacity to be self-reliant as well as create job opportunities for youths in the region," Omollo said.
Besides revamping the mill, Omollo said they will focus on increasing the area under rice in the region for food sufficiency by providing farm inputs and extension services to farmers.
edited by peter obuya