The Government has put in place elaborate measures to inject life into the ailing cotton industry. The latest initiative, which is meant to ensure cotton farmers produce quality cotton lint for better returns, will also see an upgrade of State-owned Eldoret-based textile miller, Rivatex.
Addressing a Cotton-Textile Stakeholders Consultative Forum jointly organized by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives (MoITC) and the Kenya Agribusiness and Agroindustry Alliance (KAAA) the PS said the government will also experiment with new hybrid cotton seeds that promise to cut production costs and offer investors better margins.
In her speech, Lucy Muchoki said that there is need to use the right cotton seed variety to ensure higher farm production and increased revenue. “Using certified seed can open the door to new opportunities and greater sales by providing a quality produce,” the KAAA CEO said.
According to Industry Trade and Cooperatives Principal Secretary Julius Korir, the Government has launched a pilot programme which will see hybrid cotton seeds from Israel tried on 500 acres of land in Bura, Tana River County.
The Government plans to scale it up to other cotton-growing areas once it becomes successful and the first planting will be done in September. According to the PS, the programme is being undertaken under a tripartite arrangement, which will see Rivatex offer ready market to farmers.
Other players in the arrangement include ginneries, cooperatives and the Ministry of Agriculture. “The idea was to pilot these new seeds and see if the yields will improve leading to the unit cost for the farmer going down and the fair price we will get from the ginnery will encourage farmers to even produce more,” said Korir.
In addition to Sh1 billion funding from the Government factored in the last two financial years, the Government also secured Sh2.9 billion from the Indian government to help in the modernisation of Rivatex. “We signed an agreement with the Indian Government for an extension of about Sh2.9 billion funding to Rivatex so that it can be modernised. We hope that in the next two years, Rivatex will be a State-of-the art factory,” the PS said.
However, pointed out that the Sh3.9 billion that the miller received was not enough to make it competitive. “For Rivatex to modernize and become a 21st century textile mill, it requires about Sh4 billion,” he said.
Local cotton industry slumped from its high of 1970s and 1980s when the sector used to receive subsidies from the Government. It was liberalized in the early 1990s and by then, 78,000 bales of cotton lint were produced annually before liberalization which has since gone down to a paltry 4,000 bales.