Members of the Kirinyaga County Assembly have been challenged to come up with by-laws to regulate importation of cheap rice that is grossly affecting farmers in the local Mwea irrigation scheme.
The farmers, led by the proprietor of Nice Millers, Njiru Mkombozi have now called for legislation to curb unfair competition by ensuring that no imports are done in the months of April and December when farmers in Mwea East sub county harvest their crop.
“Such an arrangement could give our farmers space to sell their produce without undue competition which has been experienced over the years,” said Njiru.
The prominent businessman said any importation of the commodity to the country should only be done when demand arises, with a view to bringing to an end the perennial suffering by farmers.
Former Kirinyaga senator Daniel Karaba who has also been a leading advocate for the control of imported rice said farmers in the county despite working tirelessly, have always counted heavy losses despite their high quality produce after well-connected individuals continue to flood the local market with cheap imports.
The situation is further aggravated by some unscrupulous traders who mix the pure Mwea brand Pishori rice with cheap imported products, which they later sell to unsuspecting customers.
Karaba said the malpractice has made rice proceeds dip drastically and added that unless urgent interventions were put in place, farmers may entirely abandon growing of the crop.
A farmer Munyi Murigu also castigated importers who use the aromatic Mwea produce to add value to their cheaply sourced and poor-quality products to make obnoxious profits.
” I have been wondering all along why our MCAs haven’t come up with such a legislative measure yet we are now several years old into devolution. Let them wake up and urgently come up with this much awaited law to save us from further exploitation,” said Murigu.
Contacted Wednesday, Karaba said he would impress upon the County Executive for Agriculture to immediately start drafting the regulatory law in conjunction with the county Speaker.
”I believe this legislation can be crafted within the shortest time possible the same way Kisumu County did to control the cheap imports of Chinese fish which almost drove out fishermen out of Lake Victoria,” noted the former senator.
Meanwhile, a kilogram of Pishori rice costs about Sh150, while the imported stuff retails for as low as Sh80 per kilo, making consumers to go for the cheaper option.
The farmers now also want their rice branded as a way of differentiating it from the cheap imports and stricter rules enforced to deal with culprits in the sector.
However, despite all the emerging challenges Mwea farmers managed to produce over 100 metric tons of rice valued at Sh7 billion last year.
By Irungu Mwangi