Scientists in Mwea Kirinyaga county have developed a new high-yielding hybrid rice variety to enhance food security.
The semi-aromatic variety dubbed ‘Komboka’ is drought resistant and has taken scientists based at Mwea Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) station to develop. So far rice farmers in Mwea Irrigation Scheme, Bura, Tana River, and Taita Taveta have been supplied with the variety which yields 70 tonnes of rice per hectare.
The new variety is ideal for lowland areas given that it grows under irrigated agriculture. It takes four months to mature and can be used as animal feed given the high nutrient content. Farmers have been advised to apply the recommended rate of fertilizer for the crop to do well.
The crop is believed to play a critical role in the production of rice which is the second most consumed food in the country after maize. In January this year, the government initiated a 10-year plan to promote rice consumption and reduce maize reliance, due to weather uncertainty.
Kenya is unable to produce enough rice for domestic consumption, with the country relying on imports to bridge the deficit. The country produces only 35 percent of what is consumed with the rest imported mainly from Pakistan.
Mwea irrigation scheme accounts for 80 percent of Kenya’s rice, playing a major role in the nationwide supply of grain. The total annual rice production in the scheme is estimated at 113,000 metric tons, with a potential for enhanced production. Other small-scale rice-producing regions include the western, coast, and Nyanza.
In 2020, Kenya produced 180,000 metric tons of rice, which is projected to increase by 10 percent to 520,000 MT by 2030. At the same time, it imported rice worth 25 billion shillings which could have been produced locally.
The country is said to be consuming 450,000 metric tonnes of rice annually, against the production of 160,000 tonnes.