KENYA – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has revised its forecast for Kenya’s rice imports, increasing it by 42% to account for higher than expected purchases stimulated by duty-free policy. 

Imports are expected to be 850,000 metric tons, compared with an earlier estimate in May of 600, 000 tons with most imports expected to be of Indian rice.

According to USDA,  consumption which has surpassed production levels coupled with the government’s approval to import 600,000 tonnes of rice duty-free to cushion consumers against the high cost of the staples is driving this uptick in demand. 

Additionally, USDA reports that import projections for 2024 were also revised upwardly to 800,000 tons compared with 625,000 tons estimated last month as consumption growth far outstrips production.

Kenya imports 80% of its rice from Asia and Tanzania to meet the demand for rice consumption which is estimated at 20.6 kilos per capita.

The country produces between 100,000 and 130,000 tonnes of milled rice while demand is around 1 million tonnes.

According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kenya imported 630,910 tonnes of rice last year valued at Ksh31.14 billion ($252.9 million), however, only 186,000 tonnes of rice paddy were produced locally.

On production, USDA said that Kenya’s rice production is forecast to rise by 37% to 130,000 tons in the marketing year beginning October 2023 through September 2024 from 95,000 tons in the current marketing year.

Early this year, the country embarked on a 5-year plan to increase the acreage under rice production in the country by at least 100,000 acres as part of its efforts to achieve rice self-sufficiency.

Joel Tanui, Chief Operating Office at the National Irrigation Authority revealed that increasing rice production hectarage will bridge the consumption deficit of rice leading the country to self-sufficiency.

He added that the country has committed to expanding and rehabilitating existing irrigation schemes as well as promoting the introduction of high-yielding rice varieties

In addition, USDA attributes the surge in production largely due to expansion in the area planted following the commissioning of the Thiba Dam in October 2022.

The Sh8.2 billion Thiba Dam was commissioned by the National Irrigation Authority to expand the size of land under the cover of rice at the Mwea Irrigation Scheme and consequently increase production.

The Mwea irrigation scheme accounts for 80 percent of Kenya’s rice production playing a major role in the supply of grain in the country.

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