Bett urges farm­ers to help re­vive trou­bled cot­ton in­dus­try

The Star (Kenya) - - News Business - WEITERE MWITA @MwitaMartin

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.

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