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New hybrid rice variety introduced in Mwea

Rice breeders in Mwea have come up with a hybrid rice that may soon replace the demand for imported rice in the country.

The new breed of rice according to scientists is more favorable to the Kenyan masses and is cheap when compared with the imported rice.

According to Dr. Emmanuel Okogbenin, the director in charge of programs and commercialization at the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), the new rice variety is more yielding and early maturing.

Dr. Okogbenin said the government should support Kenyan farmers to increase production of the new breed of rice, which will eventually meet the local demand.

“It is heart breaking for Kenya and the entire Africa to continue importing food while they have the ability to produce their own at a local level,” Okogbenin said.

He said already 400 acres have been supplied with the rice and true to the expert’s words’ the crop is already growing faster than the traditional rice.

African Agriculture Technology Foundation (ATTF) has been collaborating with Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization in Mwea in the development of the hybrid rice.

Speaking during a rice farmers’ demonstration exercise held at Mwea Dr. Okogbenin said they were supportive of the President’s Big Four agenda, especially on food security

“Our objective is to achieve prosperity for the farmers through technology as will be evidenced through the hybrid rice,” He said.

He said there is a greater need for the adoption of the technology in order to increase rice production in Kenya and in Africa as a whole.

Okogbenin said the level of rice consumption in Kenya stands at 650,000 tons as compared to the production, which is at 150,000 tons. As a result, the deficit is met by the importation of 500,000 tons of rice yearly.

He said there is a big opportunity for employment in the increased production of rice in Kenya and in the global market.

The crop scientist said consumption of rice has increased by 13 per cent while productivity grew by only 3 per cent and hence the need to jump start rice production in the country.

“Adoption of hybrid rice will enhance income for the farmers besides creating the much-desired job opportunities for the Kenyan youths,” he said.

The national rice performance trials started 10 years ago have managed to come up with five types of hybrid seed, which are available to the farmers for planting.

“It is going to be an economic booster since the hybrid rice has been proven to yield three times more than the traditional rice.

Dr Mary Mutembei, Head of Rice Promotion under the Department of Crop Development Ministry of Agriculture said the government hopes to increase the local production rate to an estimated 1.3 million metric tons by the year 2030 to fill the deficit of rice that is currently sourced externally.

She said Kenyans have over time started to embrace rice to feature as a common meal on their dinner tables in the wake of a rising population.

Dr Mutembei said that in 2016 the annual consumption rate per individual was 12 kilograms against 25.3 kilograms in 2020.

“Many youths especially those living in the urban centers have changed their diet and prefer rice to maize meal. Such factors and many more have led to an increased demand for the crop despite an insufficient local supply,” Mutembei said.

“We only manage to farm 20 per cent of what is consumed locally across the 24 counties. However, the Mwea irrigation scheme is the mega-producer,” she stated.

She said local farmers must be encouraged to embrace the cultivation of hybrid seeds for the purpose of securing the government’s food security agenda as well as increasing their profit margins after the sale of their produce.

Mutembei said the government would continue collaborating with both local and international crop experts as well as seed development agencies for the sake of boosting improved seeds that can lead to increased local production.

She was speaking in the Mwea irrigation scheme in Kirinyaga County during a rice farmer’s field day where she hailed more than six seed varieties that were showcased to the farmers.

“The experts have undertaken enough research to ensure that what is distributed for planting guarantees the farmer a low cost of production and is fit for human consumption,” She said.

She said the new variety was convenient compared to the conventional type as it matures faster, is not prone to flooding, has the ability to withstand harsh weather and many other stressful crop conditions. Moreover, it retains the aromatic trait and has a long full grain shape.

Mutembei also noted that with improved mechanization, farmers were assured of a short farming season.

Among the varieties showcased to the farmers were ‘Kwomboka, PWAN gold, AH18007, AH18004, and SCH04 among others.

By Irungu Mwangi

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