• Five years ago, cotton prices were as low as Sh25 per kg.
• The farmers from Kivingoni and Mbembani villages had replaced cotton farming with maize and beans in protest to brokers who paid measly sums for their produce.
Cotton farmers in Yatta subcounty of Machakos have a reason to smile after a Thika-based textile firm agreed to buy their crop at a competitive price.
Thika Cloth Mills recently awarded the contract to supply uniforms for the armed forces, has pledged to source cotton from the farmers.
The company Managing Director Tejal Dodhia said that they will buy the crop at Sh52 per kilogramme.
Five years ago, cotton prices were as low as Sh25 per kg.
The farmers from Kivingoni and Mbembani villages had replaced cotton farming with maize and beans in protest to brokers who paid measly sums for their produce.
“Cotton was the favourite cash crop for decades in this area until some years ago when farmers dropped it due to over-exploitation by middlemen,” Francis Kilango, a farmer said.
Kilango who has championed the revival of cotton farming in the region said that demand for the crop has risen as government revives textile industries.
“We believe cotton is a key sub-sector with the potential to benefit the farmers by putting food on the table and money in our pockets,” Winnie Nduku said.
Another farmer Japheth Nzomo said that cotton farming will create employment for residents.
Dodhia said that revival of the textile industry, which plays a key role in promoting and sustaining cotton farming in the country, has led to an increase in the demand for the crop.
She spoke when she accompanied officers from the Ministry of Agriculture to the two villages on Saturday.
The MD said that the farmers in Yatta will add to the list of more than 22,000 others contracted by the garment-making factory.
The factory also sources cotton from farmers in Coast, Nyanza, Eastern and Rift Valley regions.
“Following recent modernisation of our machinery we hope to expand and increase our production and workforce, giving hope to jobless youth as well as to cotton farmers who have been struggling with finding a good market for their produce,” she said.
The MD asserted that once the Buy Kenya Build Kenya policy is fully implemented, the factory will double the existing 54,000 jobs in the value chain to 100,000 in the next two years.
“We have invested so much in technology and equipment with the aim of supporting both our customers and cotton suppliers,’ she said.
Ms Dodhia lamented that Kenya was unable to compete in the world market due to the mass importation of counterfeit textile products.
She appealed to the revenue authority and Parliament to control the influx of foreign textile goods to save the local manufacturers.
Unfair competition and importation of cheap textiles have been blamed for the closure of Raymonds, Kicomi, United Textile Industries among others.
(edited by O. Owino)