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Taita Taveta Embarks on rice production to bridge deficit

Taita Taveta County is on a mission to become a giant in the rice production arena by pumping up acreage with eyes set on filling the national deficit of the common food item on Kenyan’s dining tables.

This resolve has become evident in moves that saw the county’s top administration arrange a joint meeting in Nairobi with Kenya National Irrigation Authority (NIA) with the latter expressing firm interest to help the county achieve its full rice production capacity.

In fast-tracking its commitment, the county administration through Governor Andrew Mwadime on Saturday embarked on drainage works at Buruma rice fields in Taveta to help reclaim wasted land and win back farmers into the abandoned economic activity.

While launching the exercise at Buruma, Governor Mwadime announced that his administration has set aside Sh50 million for the 2023/24 fiscal year to go into revitalizing rice value-addition chains in preparation for increased harvests expected in the coming years.

“We’re getting ready for a turnaround in rice production and these funds will go into strengthening value-addition chains as we expect high yields in the coming years,” said Mwadime.

Currently, the county produces 4,644 tons of rice yearly from less than a quarter of the potential production acreage with over 18,000 acres at Buruma rice fields going to waste.

However, the county in partnership with the national government and NIA is working to increase rice production to more than 12,000 tons annually by first reclaiming over 18,000 acres of wastelands in Buruma and bringing a total of 30,000 acres under rice production.

“The work is cut out for us to bring 30,000 acres under rice production and contribute our fair share to national food security and, most importantly, lift people out of poverty,” said Mwadime.

According to NIA, the move comes as a perfect timing initiative with Kenya. CEO Charles Muasya, currently producing approximately 200,000 metric tons of rice annually, leaving a deficit of more than 500,000 metric tons.

“This is a perfect opportunity for the county to step up its rice production capacity and fill part of the national gap of more than 500, 000 metric tons,” said Muasya.

To bridge that gap, Muasya said that Kenya needs to bring at least 450,000 acres of land under food production in her quest to be food secure and counties would play a big role in that realization.

Now, activities are in high gear in Tata Taveta’s agriculture department to repair stalled machines, train farmers on best practices, and avail farm inputs in the short term, and in the long run to execute a plan for a county rice milling factory as envisioned in the governor’s development transformative agenda.

By Arnold Linga Masila

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