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Researchers set to develop rice variety that will up production in Kenya, Africa

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Scientists at African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), an organization that facilitates access and delivery of appropriate agricultural technologies in Sub Saharan Africa are now working on the Hybrid Rice Project which aims to develop 2-line hybrids and parental lines that will improve production of the crop in Kenya among other selected African countries.

The project will facilitate expedited farmer access to this product through private companies and public institutions in Africa, for increased yields and improved income streams for farmers.

It aims at bolstering rice production in the country by over 200,000 tonnes in a bid to bridge the gap in national demand which currently stands at 450,000 tonnes annually.

To fill the deficit, Kenya imports the grain mostly from Asian countries since low productivity leads to high production costs which limit rice farmers by making their products costlier and less competitive in the global market.

Imports are mainly from Pakistan, Thailand, India and Vietnam but there are also modest imports from Tanzania and Uganda.

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In AATF’s 2017 Annual Report, in the trials, the candidate hybrids outperformed the local checks for key traits such as date-to-maturity, yields and disease resistance.

The hybrids take only 90–120 days to mature compared to 135–150 days for local varieties. Tried in Hola and Malindi in the coastal region, Mwea in central Kenya, and Bondo and Kisumu in western Kenya, the new rice hybrids will not only improve yields of rice but they will also be as competitive as imported rice in terms of grain quality and affordability.

It is estimated that farmers stand to gain an average of US$350 to US$1,000 per hectare more than with the commercially available varieties.

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According to the 2017 Kenya Corn, Wheat and Rice Report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agriculture Service, EAC maintains a common external tariff of 75 per cent ad valorem or $345 USD per ton, whichever is higher for rice imports from non-EAC countries.

Kenya has however been granted by EAC “the stay of application”, based on limited local production, and therefore applies the former tariff structure (that was applicable before July 1st, 2015) of 35 per cent ad-valorem or $200 USD per ton, whichever is higher.*

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The USDA adds that Kenya mainly produces the aromatic Basmati in irrigation schemes managed by Kenya’s National Irrigation Board (NIB).

In addition, GOK and county governments have been promoting the New Rice for Africa (NERICA), an improved, rain-fed, upland rice variety. NIB is also responsible for the rehabilitation of the irrigation schemes.

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