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Researchers promise better seedlings for Kenya rice farmers

By Munene Kamau | Published Mon, December 19th 2016 at 00:00, Updated December 18th 2016 at 23:10 GMT +3
A section of a rice research plot in Mwea, Kirinyaga County where production of the crop is set to double per acre after introduction of a new farming technology. PHOTO: MUNENE KAMAU/STANDARD

Kenyan rice farmers can now access the finest seed varieties in the world thanks to a collaboration between the country's researchers and international agencies.

According to John Kimani, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) Mwea director, closer collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) of the Philippines and other stake holders in the sector will ease farmers' access to the best rice varieties from all over the world.

He said this would help mitigate the country's rice production deficit.

Kenya produces 146,000 metric tonnes per year against the consumption requirement of 548,000 metric tonnes.

"You can see a huge gap, which calls for imports, which cost the Government over Sh8 billion every year," said Dr Kimani.

He however said there were challenges in the uptake of the varieties and satisfying demand, arguing that the crop had been neglected by researchers for a long time.

"This is an area we are looking at; rice used to be an orphaned crop with little research going on but now  co-operation has enabled the development of the National Rice Development Strategy spearheading rice research for the 23 Coalition for Africa Rice Development member countries," he said.

The researcher thanked the national government for a subsidy arrangement that allows farmers who buy certified rice seeds to use the receipts to access subsidised fertilisers.

Abdelbagi Ismail, the principal scientist for the Crop and Environmental Sciences Division of IRRI, said the organisation was working on developing rice varieties that can tolerate local conditions.

He said IRRI has been working to bring rice production in Africa to the same level as Asia.