By Nicholas Nduati
Rice growing farmers in Kenya now have an opportunity to improve their produce from the current 3 tons per acre to between 7 and 8 tons per acre.
This is according to the Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization center Mwea Manager John Kimani who notes that through their collaboration with the International Rice Research institute, farmers are now able to access the best elite rice varieties.
According to him however, there is a challenge of the uptake of the varieties that needs to be addressed in addition to the seeds not being enough.
Rice farmers in Kenya currently are only able to produce 146,000 metric tons against the consumption requirement of 548,000 metric tons leaving a huge gap that is currently being filled by imports of over 8 billion shillings per year.
Part of the reduced yields can be blamed on the continued use of low yielding rice varieties that produce 3 tons per acre against a potential production of between 7 and 8 tons.
Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization center Mwea Manager John Kimani notes that the partnership has also helped in developing improved seed system though there is a challenge in the uptake of the certified seeds that needs to be addressed.
Currently, the organization is working on the development of tolerant varieties which can adopt to the local climatic conditions.
Kimani notes that the ongoing fertilizer subsidy program by the government which requires farmers to buy certified seeds and use the receipt to access the subsidized fertilizer has increased the adoption of certified rice seeds.