Rivatex faces cotton shortage, expansion underway

Urges farmers to plant more, Rivatex will buy; aims for 250,000 acres in 24 counties.

In Summary

• CEO Professor Thomas Kipkurgat says the company was revived by the national government and donors for more than Sh6 billion.

•It still faces acute shortage of cotton for textile production. Kenya has more than 85,000 acres in 24 counties where cotton can be produced.

A cotton farmer at Chegilet in Elgeyo Marakwet county on August 5.
COTTON: A cotton farmer at Chegilet in Elgeyo Marakwet county on August 5.

Rivatex Textile Company in Eldoret faces an acute cotton shortage limiting textile production but aims high and urges farmers to plant more.

It wants to increase cotton production to 250,000 acres in 24 counties, from the current 89,000 acres, to ensure adequate supplies.

The firm and the government call Rivatex a success story.

CEO Professor Thomas Kipkurgat on Monday said the company was revived by the government and donors for more than Sh6 billion. The expansion will be completed in 12 months.

He said the company urgently needs more cotton and the country has more than 385,000 acres in 24 counties where it can be grown.

“Even if we go beyond and produce more than we need, there is a wide market for cotton including for exports," Kipkurgat told the Star.

He said farmers should plant as much as possible because Rivatex can buy it.

“We have a department to specifically deal with farmers' issues. We are telling farmers they should grow the cotton and we will buy it," he said.

Kipkurgat said the price of cotton had been as low as Sh20 per kilogramme. It has increased, however, to Sh52 per kilo at the farm gate. Ginning costs Sh170 per kilo.

Kipkurgat said the company has helped to revive the Malakisi ginnery in Bungoma and three others among 22 that had collapsed in Kenya.

“Farmers have revived most of the co-operative societies through which we are working with them," he said.

Last week, the government said the expansion of the Rivatex textile firm in Eldoret is 93 per cent complete.

PS for Industry Peter Kaberia said the firm will, directly and indirectly, create more than 150,000 jobs in the textiles sector.

Kaberia, who toured Rivatex with a government delegation, said the company is able to produce almost all uniforms for the disciplined forces and hospitals' staff.

He said it was on the way to profitability and sustainability.

“We are very impressed with what we have seen at Rivatex. The government has injected a lot in reviving this firm and we have seen a success story," Kaberia said.

He said the revival of the firm would lead not only to jobs but also to better earnings for farmers, expansion of ginneries, value addition and more transport business.

The CS said the firm would be complete in about 12 months; he sought to allay fears it would not be able to sustain itself.

“The story of the white elephant is behind us and in fact now we are talking of inability to satisfy the demands of the local markets.

"We have wide markets locally and abroad and we just need to improve production, hence, the expansion," Kaberia said.

Kaberia said the company and the government are supporting farmers in more than 10 counties to reduce the cost of importing raw materials.

“Profitability is assured and by the time we satisfy the markets we will even be talking about further expansion," he said.

He was with Moi University vice chancellor Prof Isaac Kosgey.

Kipkurgat said the company was producing uniforms for the National Police Service and there was increased demand for the firm’s products. He said they were supporting farmers to improve the entire chain of operations.

“At this stage, in terms of profitability, we are improving on efficiency and cutting costs. We have easy access to raw materials produced in Kenya," he said.

(Edited by V. Graham)