Government urged to save farmers from falling rice prices

The price of paddy rice at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme has dropped from Sh200 to Sh80 per kilogram causing panic among the farmers.

An expected bumper harvest of the crop has been blamed for this drop with brokers already positioning themselves around the area to make a kill.

Mwea MP Wachira Kabinga now wants the government to introduce Guaranteed Minimum Return (GMR) to the farmers in order to cushion them from impending exploitation by brokers.

Kabinga said due to the high quality of the local rice grain, brokers rush to the area during harvesting seasons, only to buy the commodity at a throw away price from the cash strapped farmers.

These brokers and middlemen then store the commodity until scarcity starts to be felt in the market and then sell the commodity at high prices, thus making huge profits at the expense of miserable producers, Kabinga said.

The same unscrupulous business persons were also known to adulterate the high quality Mwea produce with the cheaply imported products from Far East, which ends up giving them huge profits from the faked rice brand.

Francis Hinga, one of the farmers said unless government intervenes before the onset of harvesting season, most of the growers will end up recording meager incomes from the crop as the prices could even go lower.

However, the county Deputy Governor Peter Ndambiri said the marketing of the crop was being addressed as a matter of priority to bring to an end many years of exploitation of the area farmers.

We have now a County executive for Agriculture Dr. Jackan Gutu who has the capacity to address all pertinent issues related to a structured marketing of the crop for the benefit of our farmers, he said.

Last year, farmers at the scheme recorded the lowest harvest in the history of the scheme following a massive crop loss due to drought that prevailed in some parts the country.

Kabinga said with harvesting about to start, it would be necessary to come up with stringent measures to protect the farmers from further losses through improper marketing.

The scheme produces an average of 80,000 metric tons of paddy rice when the farming factors are favorable and earns farmers Sh9 billion per season.

Source: Kenya News Agency