Kenya releases three new fast-maturing rice varieties
Kenya’s rice production is likely to go up following the release of three new fast-maturing varieties with greater potential.
The hybrid varieties produce an average of 7.5 tonnes per hectare in 100 days compared to local breeds that produce two tonnes per hectare in 150 days.
This, researchers say, will bridge the country’s annual deficit of 250,000 tonnes.
Hybrid Rice project manager Kayode Sanni said the rice is developed from seeds of a cross between two genetically dissimilar parents.
The varieties were developed by Kenyan researchers under the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They have capability to evade drought and farmers can increase the planting cycle, especially with irrigation.
The Kenya National Varietal Release Committee cleared the breeds for commercial production after successful trials conducted by Hybrids East Africa under the supervision of the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service in May last year.
Demand outstrips supply
Trials were done at Hola and Malindi in the coastal region, Mwea in Central Kenya and in Siaya and Kisumu counties.
Rice demand in Kenya and Africa at large exceeds production, forcing the continent to rely on imports.
FAO estimates Africa imports at least 13 million tonnes of rice every year, costing over $5 billion (Sh500 billion).
Kenya’s annual demand of milled rice is 400,000 tonnes against a production of 150,000 tonnes, this according to latest data by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
Last Thursday, the hybrid rice project received a boost when Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $4 million (Sh400 million) to AATF for the second phase of activities
The money will be used to boost production and supply of rice in Kenya and Tanzania for the benefit of smallholder farmers.
The first phase of the project kicked off in 2012 with $5million (Sh500 million) funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and was geared towards proof of concept and development of the rice hybrids and parental varieties.