Upsurge of rice mills in Mwea results in youth employment

The liberalization of rice sector has brought mixed fortunes to both farmers and traders in the country’s largest irrigation scheme � Mwea in Kirinyaga County

Competition in the industry has seen farmers’ earnings improve tremendously with the entrance of independent paddy rice millers in the past few years.

Currently, farmers are free to sell their crop to any willing buyer, a departure from the past years where the National Irrigation Board (NIB) were the sole dealers of rice produced in the scheme.

We have come from far where one would be required to go for an authority from either the district officer or the district commissioner to be allowed to purchase a bag of rice, says Kimotho Mwenda.

The construction of a s00 Million Nice rice millers and many others in Wanguru town has not only boosted the sector but breathed a new life to the otherwise stagnating industry.

Nice Rice Millers Ltd with a capacity of 100 tons per day has helped farmers add value to their crop before delivering it to the market.

The proprietor, Charles Njiru, says that income to farmers has doubled since they are able to thresh their paddy rice after harvesting which ensures they deliver finished product to the market.

Njiru says earlier, farmers used to wait for up to three months to thresh their paddy rice after the collapse of the NIB in 1997.

The small capacity mills could not cope with the over 50,000 tones of paddy rice produced annually in the expansive irrigation scheme.

Njiru, commonly known as Mukombozi, was recently awarded with a Head of State Commendation (HSC) by president Uhuru in recognition of his investment towards achieving the Vision 2030 goals.

His rice Mills currently has a workforce of about 150 workers and another 5,000 indirectly earn a living from the factory located two kilometers from Mwea Town along the Makutano- Embu highway.

There are over 200 donkeys that help cart away bags of rice to the nearby drying fields and the same has been a source of employment to many youths in the area.

Maina Muriithi says that youths can now secure loans from banking institutions since they are assured of good returns when they sell their rice.

Farmers are also allowed to store their produce free of charge at the factory’s storage with the premises also being used as a market where individuals stop to purchase white rice.

The much anticipated construction of Thiba dam and the ongoing expansion of Mwea Irrigation Scheme by the government and Japanese donors at a cost of S9 Billion are set to double production of rice to over 100,000 metric tons per year.

The business model employed by Nice rice millers where the miller provides a marketing platform for the farmer after processing of his paddy has continued to win praise with now agricultural officials from Japan coming to Mwea to study the model.

The officials led by Osamu Hashiramoto, the Director, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were in the County to try and understand the intrigues involved in the model which has succeeded in reducing the cost of doing business for the rice farmers.

The model involves organising the farmers who delivers their paddy to a store in the factory and can have their rice milled at their appropriate time.

After milling, the farmers are also provided with a store where they preserve milled rice and a marketing center for those willing to sale their produce.

Currently the factory is home to more than 4000 rice farmers who transact their business in the area.

Source: Kenya News Agency