AfricaRice and Africa Harvest team up to boost local rice production
Kenya is set to increase rice production following the launch of a three-year project seeking to help replenish the market with 400,000 tonnes of the food crop by 2022.
The project partners – AfricaRice and Africa Harvest - said with the dwindling maize production in the country, the programme should be able to address challenges of deficit, rising demand for rice and huge import bill the country incurs every year.
Kenya is estimated to produce a meagre 120,000 tonnes but consumes about 500,000 tonnes annually. This means importation of 380,000 tonnes to bridge the deficit as a result forcing the country to incur between Sh7 billion and Sh13 billion in import costs.
The project is targeting 18,000 stakeholders including rice farmers, seed producers, extension service providers, processors and national research staff in the three countries.
AfricaRice said the project titled “Strengthening Rice Sector in East Africa for improved productivity and competitiveness of domestic rice” targets Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar with an aim to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said the project comes at a time when the government plans to achieve self-sufficiency in rice by boosting output to 400,000 tonnes by 2022, under the Big Four agenda.
The government, he added, is targeting to raise local production through the Big Four agenda’s food and nutrition pillar, and the Ministry of Agriculture’s National Rice Development Strategy of 2019.
“We want to achieve this through increasing both the irrigated and rain-fed land area under rice farming. This would focus on both lowland and highland rice farming,” Kiunjuri said in a speech read on his behalf by National Irrigation Board Deputy director general, Daniel Atula.
Highland rice breeder with AfricaRice, Negussie Zenna said there are over 200 varieties at the disposal of farmers for different ecological environments. These varieties, he added, are capable of giving high yields for rain-fed, irrigated and in drought conditions.
Africa Harvest Chief Executive Officer Florence Wambugu said it is unacceptable that 80 per cent of Kenya’s rice is imported, when the country has huge potential to produce the commodity that has grown in importance.