Rice farmers at Bunyala Irrigation Scheme in Busia risk losing millions of shillings due to lack of a ready market.
National Irrigation Board manager Joel Tanui has called on stakeholders to intervene and save the situation.
Mr Tanui said failure by the National Cereals and Produce Board to buy the harvest has contributed to the farmers’ woes. He said the board had promised to buy the produce.
“Due to frustrations we decided to give out most of our rice on credit. We have about Sh10 million outside, a move that has affected many farmers because they are unable to prepare their land for the next planting season due to lack of money,” he said.
Mr Tanui said farmers have received about Sh12 million only out of the expected Sh30 million from the rice sold.
Mr Tanui said unless the situation is reversed, the gains made in the past year in developing the crop will be lost. This, he added, would make it hard for farmers to repay the loans they took from banks and other financial institutions.
He said some farmers are planning to move away from rice and grow another crop to avoid making losses. “We are likely to face a major problem if the issue is not addressed as a matter of urgency because farmers are getting tired,” he said.
Farmers have attributed the bumper harvest to high quality seeds and extension training services.
“We were expecting to harvest more than 60,000 bags of rice but due to some problems we managed to get 45,000 bags. We still have 2,000 bags in store with no buyers,” Tanui said.
The NIB manager said farmers in the area plant twice a year. However, he said this year they would plant once because farmers have no money to buy inputs or prepare their farms.
“We are late in the season. Farmers have been idle since January expecting to sell their produce so that they can repay their loans and prepare their farms but nothing is forthcoming,” he said.
Tanui said his board is trying to help farmers obtain about Sh2 million from banks and other financial institutions to enable them prepare their lands for the next planting season.
Christopher Ngunyi, a farmer and chairman of the bMagombe Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society, said he had high expectations this year following the bumper harvest but lack of market is now hurting them.
“Most of the rice farmers depend on income from the produce to educate their children and repay the loans they took from financial institutions,” he said.
Mr Ngunyi said most farmers would not able to prepare their farms for the next planting season unless the problem is addressed.