Farmers in Ahero could run into massive post-harvest losses estimated at Sh20million due to lack of a ready market.
More than 10,000 bags of milled rice lying in stores risk getting destroyed by rodents and pests if not quickly sold.
The rice farmers depended on the Kenya National Trading Corporation to buy their produce, which it would later sell to government institutions. But the corporation has stopped doing this.
According to Senior Manager Western Kenya Rice Scheme Joel Tanui, KNTC failed to honour its part of its deal of purchasing the produce and has since gone silent on rice farmers.
“They had promised to buy rice from farmers after milling it. Farmers have been waiting since then,” said Mr Tanui.
Ogolo Ododo, a rice farmer, milled 80 bags of rice in September, but he is yet to get his return from the Sh324,000 worth of the produce.
“We are going through a tough season as farmers,” he said. “We are disappointed we milled our rice and KNTC has failed to buy our rice.”
Another farmer, Eli Owala, said since he delivered 52 bags, he is still yet to get paid.
In March of last year, farmers faced the worst loss after the raging waters of River Nyando destroyed 7,500 acres of paddy.
“I wish KNTC had been honest with farmers from the beginning so that they could prepare to look for an alternative market for their rice produce,” said Mr Tanui.
Last year, President Uhuru directed KNTC purchase local rice from farmers in the country, a deal that Ahero farmers could have greatly benefited from.
“Another option would be to sell the rice to the Uganda buyers, but since the borders are still closed farmer will have to be stuck with their rice,” said Mr Tanui.
But KNTC Western Region managing director Timothy Mirugi argued the Covid-19 situation had messed up the market flow of rice.
Usually the corporation buys rice from farmers in Mwea, Ahero, Nyatike and Bunyala and later sells it to government institutions such schools, hospitals, prisons, the Kenya Police Service the and Kenya Defense Forces.
However, with the closure of most learning institutions, KNTC has remained stuck with the rice bought at the depots.
“It is barely a week since the schools opened. We are waiting for two weeks before we can start selling of the rice,” he said.
He said that once they clear the rice stocked in the depot, they will again buy from farmers in Ahero.
“In Ahero scheme we already took rice worth Sh31million. It’s a matter of wait and see,” said Mirugi.