• Committee chair James Murango said cotton should be classified as a cash crop
• Bill sponsor Beth Syengo said the bill aims to help farmers in ASAL areas to benefit
Senators collecting public views on a cotton bill on Wednesday heard that farmers in Kitui have despaired.
Farmers told the Agriculture and Livestock Committee that market prices are too low and that they have since shifted to alternative farming.
The team was in Kyuso, Mwingi North, collecting views on the Cotton Industry Development Bill, sponsored by nominated Senator Beth Syengo.
Speaking after the public participation, committee chair James Murango said cotton should be classified as a cash crop, and that's what the bill addresses.
"If the government puts more emphasis on cotton farming, it would be a game changer as most of the cotton is brought from other East African countries," he said.
"The commodities fund should also eliminate brokers and set a standard price for the cotton to help the farmer."
Also present were Embu Senator Alexander Mundigi, who is the vice chairperson, and Bungoma Senator David Wafula.
Murango said the country produces 7 million tonnes of cotton, yet it can produce 200 million tonnes.
"The country produces only 8 per cent of cotton, amounting to Sh60 billion, but the country is capable of reaching 7.5 trillion," the Kirinyaga senator said.
The bill seeks to promote a globally competitive cotton industry, while facilitating the production, value addition and processing of safe and healthy cotton and its products.
It also seeks to promote the generation of high income for cotton farmers and traders and encourage continuous and sustained research and extension services for the development of the cotton industry.
It also aims to facilitate the introduction of modern cotton farming techniques and general modernisation of the cotton industry and provide financial support to the various players in the cotton industry.
Murango said the cotton produced in Kenya is imported to Australia and Bangladesh, where they manufacture linen then taken back to Kenya Export Processing Zones to make clothes sold in America and Canada.
"The clothes are then sold in the outside market and then later brought to Kenya as second-hand clothes," he said.
Syengo said the bill aims to help farmers in ASAL areas to have a cash crop that will be of economic value to them.
"Cotton is harvested in August and it is a good time, when the farmers are less busy," she said.
Munyoki Mwinzi, the area MCA, urged the farmers to form cooperatives to have more bargaining power.