Over 100,000 bags of rice worth millions of shillings belonging to farmers from the expansive Mwea Irrigation Scheme in Kirinyaga County are lying idle in stores due to lack of buyers.
The farmers have expressed fears that their produce at the Mwea Rice Growers Multipurpose Cooperative Society stores may rot if a market for it is not found quickly.
The society’s chairman Ndege Muriuki admitted that the situation is dire.
“It is true we have so much rice in our stores which has not been sold and it may go to waste if urgent measures are not taken," he stated.
The farmers called on the government to intervene so that they do not incur heavy losses.
Mr Ndege noted that the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC), which was directed by the government to buy rice at Sh85 per kilogramme, has kept away from the area.
"The KNTC is not purchasing rice the way it used to do and farmers are suffering," he lamented.
In February last year President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the area and ordered that rice be bought at Sh85 per kilogramme, up from Sh45, so that farmers could make profits.
He instructed the KNTC to implement his directive with immediate effect. The State agency bought the rice for some time but it later stopped, leaving the farmers without a reliable market.
The President noted that the farmers had been exploited by brokers for long, hence the government’s intervention.
"Our President assured us when he toured Mwea that his government was committed to ensuring farmers reap maximum benefits from their produce. Sadly, those charged with the role of purchasing our rice are letting the President down," said Mr Ndege.
The society is now planning to borrow Sh300 million from banks to purchase rice from farmers.
“If this rice goes to waste, the society will be held responsible. If the government doesn't provide cash to buy rice, we shall be forced to borrow," Mr Ndege stated.
He said the farmers produce 80 per cent of rice consumed in Kenya and they should be assisted.
Farmers rely on rice to feed and educate their children as well as meet other financial obligations. When there is no good market for their produce, they usually suffer.
The farmers complained that brokers have returned to the Mwea scheme on learning that there is no market for their rice.
“Brokers are already here and they are offering to buy our rice at throwaway prices. They know that we are desperate and want to take advantage of the current situation at the scheme to exploit us," one of the farmers, David Kariuki Ngari, said.