Bett urges farmers to help revive troubled cotton industry
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett has called on smallholder farmers to venture into cotton farming to help revive the troubled sector.
This is at the backdrop of a low cotton production status in the country currently at 4,000 metric tonnes of lint, against a spinning capacity demand of about 10,000 metric tonnes.
Bett who spoke in Kwale last Friday during a tour of a cotton farming project by mining company Base Titanium , cited high cost of inputs as one of the major challenges facing the sector.
This, he said has made the industry uncompetitive both in the local and international markets.
He said the government is putting in place measures and policies, “to ensure opportunities in the cotton-textile value chains are enhanced”.
They include access to credit, mentorship and formation of cooperatives.
“The government’s emphasis has been on enhancing strong relationships with key stakeholders such as the farmers, input suppliers, market agents, ginners, spinners and textile millers in order to boost self-regulation and promote not only production, but also value and consumption of cotton,” Bett said.
He said the country imports more than 50 per cent of the lint requirements, putting pressure on the demand for foreign exchange.
“We can only get integrated into the global cotton value chain by reducing our costs of production and increasing efficiency,” the CS said.
Since market liberalization in 1991, the cotton -to-garment value chain in Kenya has lacked the structure and institutional dynamics required to compete with global players like China.
A World Bank (2005) report identified factors responsible for the cotton sector’s poor performance include periodic drought, volatile producer prices, delayed payments to farmers and the lack of access to quality seeds.
Others are the high cost of pesticides and competition from synthetic fiber substitutes and cheap imports of new and second -hand clothes.
Base Titanium has established a cotton farming program with the local community to help improve the living standards.
“A target of 1, 500 farmers will be growing cotton in the coming season on 1,500 acers. This realisation has pushed us to extend our program to Lamu and Makueni county” general manager for environment and community affairs Colin Forbes said.
The government has pumped in Sh1 billion in the last two financial years to upgrade state-owned Eldoret based textile miller-Rivatex.
In March this year, the project received a Sh3 billion funding from the Indian government for purchase of new machines.