The Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) has bought rice worth Sh300 million from farmers in Mwea, Kirinyaga County, following the presidential directive issued in March.
A kilogramme of rice is being bought at Sh85 and farmers have delivered nine million kilos of their produce to their Mwea Multi-purpose Cooperative Society’s stores. Initially, unprocessed rice sold at Sh45.
KNTC Chief Executive Officer Timothy Mirugi said the presidential directive must be implemented and urged the farmers to be patient.
“We are offering a fair price to farmers and we are going to purchase all the rice delivered because the funds are available,” he said.
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.
He noted that for decades, farmers had been exploited by middlemen, making it difficult for them to break even.
Brokers normally offer between Sh45 and Sh50 per kilogramme of rice and farmers had been complaining that the prices were too low.
The farmers lamented that it was difficult to make profits because the brokers took advantage of lack of markets for their produce to buy the commodity at a throw away price.
The farmers thanked the government for coming to their rescue.
“We are now smiling all the way to the bank,” said Mr Simon Njogu, one of the farmers.
The Mwea scheme produces 80 per cent of rice consumed in Kenya.
But the production is not enough and Kenya has to import more rice to cater for the deficit.
Currently the government is constructing the Sh20 billion 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.