Rice imports to continue till local production increases

By MUNENE KAMAU

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei has ruled out possibilities of banning rice imports unless the current crop production increases.

He said existing trade protocols and memorandums, including those related to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Comesa and East African Community (EAC) prohibit the Government from undertaking such measures.

The Cabinet Secretary noted that rice is currently the third most consumed cereal crop in the country after maize and wheat, and its annual consumption was estimated at 540,000 metric tonnes compared to a paltry 130,000 metric tonnes annual production.

“To meet the high national consumption rate that has been increasing at 12 per cent compared to 4 per cent for wheat and 1 per cent for maize, farmers in rice growing areas must increase production by adopting new technology,” Mr Koskei said.

Double production

He said due to high preference of rice consumption, the Government through the ministry has developed a strategy to double local production by 2018.

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“The strategy entails expansion of areas under rain fed farming and irrigation, reduction of post harvest losses through mechanisation, improved seed production systems and market development improvement among others,” he said.

 Koskei was speaking at Mwea, Kirinyaga County during a tour of Kenya’s biggest rice production scheme by the Japanese senior vice minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Taku Eto.

During the day long tour, Eto was accompanied by the Japan Ambassador to Kenya Tatsushi Terada and other high ranking officials from the Japan International Corporation Agency.

Earlier, Koskei received modern agricultural machinery worth Sh400 million donated by Japan, to boost rice production in Mwea.

He advised farmers to embrace scientific methods of farming to reduce cost of production and enhance value addition of the crop.

Kirinyaga County Governor, Joseph Ndathi, area MP Peter Gitau and Agriculture Principal Secretary Cecily Kariuki were present.

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Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei rice imports