• Current national production stands at 20, 000 bales and Government is targeting 200,000 bales by 2022.
• Cotton production peaked in 1984 with an output reaching 70,000 bales, but has continued to decline from 1990s to date.
The government will from January next year start reviving all cotton ginneries, Agriculture CS Peter Munya has said.
He said the ministry has already started looking for resources to help in the revitalisation process.
"In recognition of the importance of cotton production under the Big 4, the government is implementing the cotton revitalisation roadmap and a National Task Force for Revitalization of Cotton and Pyrethrum was appointed in May this year, to improve competitiveness and efficiency along the cotton and textile value chain,” said Munya.
He spoke on Friday at Kilimo House while releasing Bt cotton seeds that will be distributed for free to farmers in eastern Kenya.
Solomon Odera, head of Fibre Crops Directorate at the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) said currently, only seven cotton ginneries are operational and by 2021, anther four will be functioning.
Munya confirmed that in pursuit of the revitalisation programme, the government will procure and distribute Bt cotton seed and pesticides to 23 counties suitable for cotton production during the current financial year 2020/2021.
In April, the ministry distributed 16 metric tonnes of cotton seeds to farmers in Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Busia, Bungoma, Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River and Lamu counties.
On Friday, Munya distributed another 16.3 metric tonnes of genetically modified cotton seeds to farmers in the eastern region counties including Kitui, Makueni, Machakos, Embu, Meru, Kirinyaga, Tharaka Nithi, Laikipia and Taita Taveta for the short rains planting season.
He said the government has rolled out commercial production of Bt cotton to progressively enhance production to reach 200,000 bales by 2022 from the current production of 20,000 bales.
“As we seek to enhance cotton production, the government is currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with USA and UK. While we expect positive outcome in the negotiations, we have a great responsibility for ensuring that we will have the capacity to satisfy the requirements of these expansive markets once they are secured. Further, the Government in collaboration with stakeholders is undertaking a range of policy and regulatory interventions geared towards revitalising the sub-sector,” he said.
Anthony Mureithi, AFA director, said in 1970s and 1980s, Kenya was the leading producer of lint in the region and the industry second leading employer after the public service in the country.
He said the local cotton production currently meets only 17 per cent of the local demand with the balance being imported.
Mureithi noted that cotton production peaked in 1984 with an output reaching 70,000 bales, but declined from 1990s to date with production currently standing at about 20,000 bales of lint cotton.
“The country potential demand is estimated to be 260,000 bales per year and Kenya currently imports 70,000 bales per annum mainly from Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania. The country has a potential production of 350,000 bales of lint from 300,000 hectares under rain fed agriculture and an additional 35,000 hectares under irrigation,” he said. Out of the total land suitable for cotton farming only 30,000 hectares is currently in use.
Mureithi attributed the decline in production to market liberalisation, competition from synthesis fibres, disease and pest build up especially the African bollworm and cotton strainers.
“Poor crop management, low prices, high cost of inputs, inefficient marketing channels, over-dependence on rain-fed cotton growing and poor quality seeds have also contributed to the decline,” he said.