Pyrethrum sector receives big boost from Nakuru county

Governor Kihika has pledged to allocate Sh27 million to the sector to enable them recover business.

In Summary
  • In the 1970s and 1980s, Kenya used to produce more than 18,000 tonnes of pyrethrum annually. 
  • However, due to the many challenges, the crop production fell to about 60 tonnes. In 2022, production stood at 61 tonnes.
Farmers show samples of dried pyrethrum flowers.
PYRETHRUM FARMING: Farmers show samples of dried pyrethrum flowers.
Image: FILE

Pyrethrum farmers in Nakuru have a reason to celebrate after Governor Susan Kihika pledged to allocate the sub-sector Sh27 million next year to enable them recover business.

The governor said her government was committed to boosting pyrethrum growing by ensuring that at least an additional 1,500 acres of land was put under the cash crop in the next two years.

Kihika added that pyrethrum farming had empowered hundreds of farmers in the county who in the past depended on maize farming.

“We are happy that the sector has picked up and we shall continue to support farmers through the provision of seedlings, processors and a market for their produce,” the county chief said.

Kihika said her administration was working with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya, research institutions and other stakeholders as part of the strategies to fully revive pyrethrum growing.

She further said the strategy is to facilitate provision and distribution of enough quality seedlings to farmers to increase the capacity of the pyrethrum processing plant.

The governor made the remarks in a speech delivered on her behalf by Agriculture executive Leonard Bor during a stakeholders meeting in the pyrethrum value chain dubbed Pyrethrum Caucus meeting at the Agricultural Training Centre at Soilo in Njoro subcounty.

Kihika said her government was working to ensure full revival of pyrethrum production by providing the necessary resources and incentives and by training more extension workers through a collaboration with Egerton University.

The governor added that the county had established a call centre which was a one-stop shop where pyrethrum and other farmers could have their questions answered in real time to spur development in this critical sector.

Kihika said her government will work closely with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service to ensure the seeds supplied to farmers are certified and suitable for planting in specific areas.

She advised investors in the lucrative industry to rethink their business model by ensuring they set aside enough money to pay farmers on time to enable them improve on their production.

Kenya was once the world’s leading producer of pyrethrum but due to poor management of the defunct Pyrethrum Board of Kenya, the industry regulator, the business grappled with hard times for many years.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Kenya used to produce more than 18,000 tonnes of pyrethrum annually. However, due to the many challenges, the crop production fell to about 60 tonnes. In 2022, production stood at 61 tonnes.

The Agriculture executive said that his team had put in place strategies to revive the once vibrant sector that controlled more than 70 per cent of the global market, adding that by doing so, it would create thousands of jobs for the residents. 

Bor said that dedicating more land towards growing the crop was the surest way to increase production and assured farmers of getting good returns as pyrethrum had high demand globally. He said due to the global shift from synthetic to natural pesticides, pyrethrum farmers in Kenya stand to gain more if they improve production.

The Agriculture executive thanked the national government for its efforts in reviving pyrethrum growing, saying it will be a major economic driver for the region.

County Agriculture chief officer Kibet Kurgat said that Kenya still had the potential to recapture its former 75 per cent pyrethrum world market share owing to the environment, legislation and the willing farmer base.

He said after liberalisation of the industry in 2013 following the enactment of the Crops Act (2013) and AFA Act (2013), the industry had witnessed a gradual increase of interest by farmers and investors at various levels of the value chain.

“The European Union and the United States are keen on chemicals sprayed on horticulture products entering their markets and the local pyrethrum has a ready market owing to its high quality and low chemical use. Both European and America markets consume about 80 per cent of the Kenyan pyrethrum,” Kurgat said. 

Nakuru county assembly Agriculture Committee chairperson Isabella Makori said researchers at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization had developed high-yielding and disease-resistant pyrethrum seedlings to be distributed to farmers.

Makori said the county government in collaboration with the central government was committed to supporting farmers in the sub-sector to increase the acreage of the crop to serve both domestic and international markets.

She said the cash crop’s revival initiative also seeks to encourage participation of the private sector in the growing and processing of pyrethrin to make the sub-sector competitive after a decade’s slump.

Makori appealed to the national government to fast-track modernisation of the processing equipment at the Pyrethrum Processing Company, which has a crushing capacity of 10 metric tonnes a day for a higher processing capacity.

Pyrethrum is grown in 18 counties with Nakuru, Nyandarua and West Pokot emerging as the main producers of the cash crop that was once christened 'White gold of Kenya.'

The crop is also grown in Uasin Gishu, Kericho, Kisii, Kiambu, Narok, Nyamira, Nyeri, Baringo, Nandi, Meru, Embu and Murang’a, among other counties.

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