The National Irrigation Board through its research centres and seed Merchants have formed a collaboration that will ensure rice farmers were supplied with certified seeds.
The move, according to one of its lead researchers at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme, Vincent Koskei, is meant to lock out fake seeds whose continued use by unsuspecting farmers had not only lowered the quality of the grain but also quantity.
Koskei added that other than the seed merchants, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), is the chief collaborator to ensure only those seeds which meet its specifications and standards were allowed into the market.
Speaking during a Field-day held at the Mwea Irrigation Agriculture Development Centre, Koskei said already promotion of released certified rice varieties and technologies was geared towards the enhanced food security and nutrition.
“We have so far released 18 such verities which are suitable for both rain fed and irrigation rice farming some of which are either high yielding or early maturing,” he said.
Koskei said it was projected that once the move picks up in all the rice growing areas, farmers will achieve its target of 450,000 metric tons of milled rice in order to check on imports and bridge the huge gap against the 100,000 metric tons the country produces.
“We believe once our farmers start knowing how to identify certified rice seeds through checking of certification of labels among others will be reinstated to the participating farmers in this filed day,” Koskei said.
Presently, he added the scheme was producing 80,000 metric tons of harvested paddy and subsequent 40,000 tons of ratoon crop.
“This translates to a total of Sh. 7.2 billion being injected into the national economy every year from the Mwea irrigation scheme, “he added.
This was the first time such a forum had been organized for the farmers to be enlightened on the need to grow certified seeds.
“Rice farmers stand a better chance of boosting their production in future following the introduction of superior brands that is early maturing.
A farmer, Morris Mutugi, said fake seeds have in the past been sold to unsuspecting growers only to give minimal yields despite the massive inputs and labour.
The scheme produces 80 per cent of all the rice grown in the country besides Pekera and Ahero which are other rice growing schemes.
With the release of certified upland rice seeds, production is set to rise according to Koskei.
Already upland rice is being grown in Meru and the coast region which is expected to boost rice production in the country. The move is meant to improve food security and enhance production
By Irungu Mwangi