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Rice farmers in Budalangi stare at losses due to lack of market

NEWS
By Ignatius Odanga | November 11th 2020
Bags of rice with some being dried at the National Irrigation Board offices in Budalang'i. (Photo: Ignatius Odanga)

Rice farmers in Budalang’i are staring at losses following the unavailability of ready market.

Hundreds of farmers are keeping huge quantities of rice in their homes that could lead to post-harvest losses due to poor storage.

Those whose rice was due for harvesting are also in dilemma over where to dry the produce as most homes are still submerged in water following recent floods.

Farmers who spoke to The Standard expressed fear of recording huge losses should they fail to sell their rice.

Those from Magombe and Ruambwa-Mudembi, said they had invested a lot in developing the crop with the cost of developing an acre shooting to at least Sh30,000.

The biggest market for rice farmers in Budalang’i is Uganda, but with the Coronavirus pandemic, buyers no longer cross the border to purchase the cereal.

Rice stores located at the National Irrigation Board’s office in Budalang’i are full of the cereal from the local farmers who are craving for the market.

The chairman of the Bunyala rice farmers cooperative society Robart Musolo said a kilo of rice is normally sold at Sh45.

The society has at least 550 farmers. Besides Bunyala rice farmers cooperative society, there is also Magombe multipurpose cooperative society that has existed for nearly 50 years with more than 1,000 membership.

“Unless the government intervenes and buys the rice otherwise farmers are going to record huge losses,” said Musolo.

He continued,” Many farmers have bags of rice in their homes because the stores at the Irrigation Board are full, and some more farmers are planning to begin harvesting next month.”

Alex Okumu from Mundika is one of the farmers worried about where he will get the market for his rice.

He is, however, optimistic that he will get buyers so that he can sell his produce to enable him to plan for the new season early next year.

The farmer has at least 80 bags of rice at his home in Mundika.

“This year many farmers have had bumper harvest despite numerous challenges we experienced particularly the floods, but there is no market as of now,” said Okumu.

The farmers depend on machines that they hire from outside the county to help them in harvesting.

Just like Okumu, John Osoga from Busagwa is yet to sell his produce. “ I am yet to sell my rice and next month I should start harvesting another from my other seven acres,” said Osoga.

Magret Obadia is another troubled rice farmer. She was forced to leave her home to take refuge in one of the local primary schools when floods wreaked havoc in the area.

After returning home two months ago Ms. Obadia embarked on harvesting her rice.

Lack of rice milling plants is disadvantaging them as they are forced to sell the rice while in paddy form making them lose the byproducts including the husk, germ, and broken rice.

Last December, the government of Venezuela donated a rice milling machine to rice farmers in Budalang’i.

At the same time, Venezuela released Sh400 million conditional grant for the construction of a rice research institute.
The milling machine was to help packaging and grading to prevent the farmers from selling rice while in paddy form and miss out on byproducts.

Almost one year later, the machine is yet to be installed.

“The machine is lying idle when it was supposed to serve local rice farmers,” said Mr Musolo.

“If the machine was in operation, we would be milling at least 15 tonnes of rice, package, grade, and even sell locally,” he added. He disclosed that farmers have tried to ensure the machine is installed in vain.
 

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