Kenyans to spend more on a plate of rice after prices shoot up

A kilogramme of Pishori rice at Mwea Irrigation Scheme was Monday selling at more than Sh200 ($2) per kilogramme, up from Sh145 in January.

A drastic decline in rice production at Kenya’s largest irrigation scheme has pushed up the retail price of rice by 38 per cent, piling pressure on households that are already grappling with the high cost of living in a sluggish economy.

“The cost of rice has been increasing since January following a drop in output at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme in the wake of a severe drought that affected the flow of water,” said Innocent Ariemba, a manager at the scheme.

A kilo of Pearl Kenya Pishori retails at a steep price of (Sh249) while a kilo of Daawat Basmati rice goes for Sh237, Daawat Aromati (Sh217) and Sunrice Mwea Pishori was selling at Sh200 on Monday at Nairobi supermarkets.

Mwea is Kenya’s largest irrigation scheme and accounts for 80 per cent of Kenya’s rice production, making it a major determinant of the country’s ability to meet annual demand.

The National Irrigation Board (NIB) said rice production at the scheme dropped from average yields of 830,000 bags in the season ended March last year to 498,000 bags in the season ended March this year, a 40 per cent decline.

NIB said River Thiba, whose flow on a normal season is six cubic meters per second, declined to two cubic meters per second late last year, reducing the amount of water at the scheme.

Mwea Irrigation Scheme requires a total flow of seven cubic meters for effective production, Mr. Ariemba added.

The declined in water is however expected to normalise from November when the crop that is currently on the farm is harvested according to NIB.

In event of good rains, Mwea is expected to produce up to 95 percent of the required yields in the current season that started in April and ultimately bring down retail prices.

Kenya produces 150,000 tonnes of rice a year, leaving a 250,000 tonnes deficit that is met through imports.

Kenya’s rice consumption has been growing at the rate of 10 percent a year to stand at 400,000 tonnes, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

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