County governments will soon have absolute powers to determine persons or entities that will carry out business in the rice farming value chain if Parliament approves a law to regulate the sector.
The Rice Bill 2023 seeks to give governors powers to, among other things, implement the national government policy, regulation, and facilitation of access to players and resources in the rice industry.
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The proposed law, which Kirinyaga senator James Murango sponsors, calls for establishing the Kenya Rice Board, whose role will be to regulate and promote the development of the rice industry.
The board will also be responsible for coordinating the activities of individuals and organisations within the industry and facilitating equitable access to the benefits and resources of the industry.
It will also be tasked with researching and facilitating the flow of studies to interested parties.
This will be through effective extension services monitoring of the domestic market to identify and advise the government and those interested in any distortion in the rice market.
The board will also have the power to regulate, control, market, import, and export rice and its by-products and facilitate arbitration of disputes.
“The rice industry has suffered from various administrative inefficiencies within the National Cereals and Produce. This has contributed to the exploitation of farmers by middlemen, increased rice production costs, and widening the gap between the locally produced rice and the annual national consumption,” says Senator Murango.
The proposed law comes when the agricultural sector faces many challenges, such as increased cost of production, lack of agricultural extension services, and limited data, especially in sectors such as rice farming.
The administration of rice growing is vested in the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), which regulates the collection, movement, storage, sale, purchase, and transportation of the produce.
NCPB also currently markets, processes, distributes, imports, exports, and disposes of all rice in the country.
“Rice is an important food and cash crop in Kenya with critical implications on food security and economic growth,” says Murango.
Section 24 of the Bill provides that a person shall not directly or indirectly engage in the business of milling or processing rice by-products unless such a person has applied for a licence with the county government.
A county executive committee member in charge of Agriculture shall consider an application within such period, not exceeding fourteen days, as may be prescribed in the respective county legislation.
Section 31 gives the Cabinet Secretary the power to impose a levy on domestic and imported rice, known as the rice development levy.
However, such a levy will only be imposed in consultation with the Board and the Council of Governors.
The levy shall be payable at such rate as may be specified in the order, which shall contain provisions for when any amount payable by way of the levy shall become due.
All monies received regarding the levy shall be paid to the Board.
“If a person fails to pay any amount payable by him by way of the levy on or before the date prescribed by the order, a sum equal to five percent of the amount shall be added to the amount due for each month or part thereof during which the amount owing remains unpaid.
Section 32 of the Rice Development Fund shall consist of the rice development levy, any funds provided by bilateral or multilateral donors for the Fund, and any monies provided by the National Assembly for the Fund.