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Low-priced imported rice hurting business in Mwea

Mwea rice farmers have petitioned Kirinyaga County Assembly to explore the possibility of coming up with a bill that would regulate the sale of imported cheap rice.

The farmers claimed that the MCAs are in a position to come up with a bill, which can influence policy makers in developing a regulatory flame work to save them from further abuse from unscrupulous trader’s importing cheap rice into the country.

Former Kirinyaga Senator Daniel Karaba, who also undertakes rice farming in Mwea said the assembly is in a position to come up with a legislation that will control and regulate the importation of cheap rice as a measure to protect the farmers from unfair competition.

Karaba said the law could be such that cheap imported rice is kept out of the area in April and December when local rice farmers harvest their crop.

Employees of Mwea Irrigation Authority sorting out rice seeds for treatment.
Photo by Irungu Mwangi.

“Such an arrangement can give our farmers space to sell their products without much unjust competition, which is evident over all the years. I think this is the reason we have the county assemblies to prioritize and legislate on issues that will have a positive and big impact to their areas,” he said.

Such a law if in place, he said, can control the amount of rice that can be imported and only when demand arises and also bring to an end the farmers’ agony that has lasted for many years.

Karaba said despite working extremely hard, farmers in the county have over the years counted heavy losses for their high-quality produce after well-connected individuals flood the market with the cheap commodity.

He said the market is even made worse by some unscrupulous traders who use the same Pishori Mwea rice to adulterate the cheap imported rice and later pass it as mwea pishori rice.     “This practice has made the proceeds from rice go very low and unless something is done, farmers may entirely stop from engaging in rice-growing,” he alleged.

Karaba said he would impress upon the area CEC for Agriculture to move fast and start drafting the law in conjunction with the County Speaker, Antony Gathumbi.

”I believe this law 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,” Karaba said.

A kilogram of Pishori rice costs at most Sh130 while the imported one retails as low as Sh60 per kg, making consumers go for the cheaper option.

While supporting Karaba’s proposal, the farmers also asked the government to ensure their rice is branded, with strict rules attached to deter those involved in adulterating the produce besides enabling consumers to differentiate it from the cheap imports.

One of them, Agnes Wangithi said such a move will certainly end their many years of exploitation by the importers who use the aromatic Mwea produced grain to value add their cheap and poor quality rice, making maximum profits.

” I have been wondering all along why our MCA’s have not come up with such a legislative measure yet we are now several years old in devolution. Let them wake up and urgently come up with this much-awaited law to save us from further exploitation, ”Wangithi said.

Despite the challenge posed by cheap imports, in 2019, the Mwea rice farmers managed to produce over 140 metric tons of rice valued at Sh10 billion.

By Irungu Mwangi

 

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