, KISUMU, Kenya, Nov 22 – Rice farmers within Ahero Irrigation Scheme in Nyando Sub County are calling upon the government to find market for their produce now estimated at Sh30 million.
John Otieno, a farmer within the scheme says they are stranded with the produce due to lack of market after harvesting, adding that marketing of their produce remains one of the biggest challenges.
“We have a lot of rice in our stores, but we do not have markets,” he said.
According to Otieno, the only available market is from the neighboring country of Uganda. However, the middlemen who sell to the Ugandan market usually offer low prices.
“We have cartels who dictate prices for our produce,” he said.
The situation, the farmers explained would have a negative impact on their livelihoods and prevent them from farming during the next farming season.
According to Western Kenya Schemes senior manager Joel Tanui, Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) failed to purchase produce from the farmers as anticipated.
LBDA chairman Odoyo Owidi early this year announced that the Authority had set aside Sh100 million to purchase rice from farmers in the counties of Kisumu and Homa Bay.
The aim was to cushion farmers from incurring losses because of lack of market and to increase production.
LBDA had given hope to rice farmers while announcing that they will be paid within two weeks after delivering their crops and promising to provide transport for farmers with difficulties in delivering their produce.
However, Tanui says the arrangement has not taken off leaving farmers stranded with their produce while staring at post harvest losses.
“This year, we have put into production 100 percent of the scheme and farmers are facing a big problem of market of their produce,” he said.
He says farmers are worried since this is the peak of harvesting and is expected to go until January next year with no market on sight.
Tanui told LBDA to come to the rescue of farmers to purchase the produce to allow them plant again.
He told the national government that rice already in stores can be purchased for strategic grain reserve to cushion farmers from losses.
“It is quite a lot of rice and it will be a pity to lose this rice to Uganda at a very low price,” he said.
Tanui says the aim was to have two seasons of rice farming annually and lack of market will be big blow to food security in the region.
He noted that most farmers took loans from Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) to develop their farms.
“It is worth noting that these farmers took loans from AFC to finance production activities and if they are not able to sell their rice immediately it will be a challenge for them to repay their loans,” he said.