Earnings from sisal grew to Sh4.1 billion last year from Sh3.7 billion in 2015, with good export prices hitting the local processors who could not get enough fibre.
The recent data from Fibre Crops Directorate indicates the price of a tonne of sisal was exported at Sh200,000 compared with the Sh100,000 it attracted locally.
Fibre Crops Directorate head Anthony Muriithi says three local sisal processors are operating below installed capacity due to good demand and high price the fibre is fetching in the international market.
“There have been an increase in international price of sisal that has seen 80 per cent of the fibre being exported to international market, impacting negatively on local processors,” said Mr Muriithi.
Major processors in Kenya include Majani Mingi Sisal Estate and Thika-based Premier Bag and Cordage that manufacture sisal bags.
Sisal fibre produced in Kenya is exported to more than 30 destinations worldwide with Kenya’s major markets being Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, China and Morroco.
The Coastal region leads in production with a total of five estates including Kilifi, Vipingo (Kilifi), Voi, Teita (Taita Taveta) and Agro processor International Ltd in Kwale.
According to the directorate, smallholder farmers have increased the acreage under sisal due to the improved export prices.
“There are new emerging markets in Europe and Middle East which means the demand for the fibre will continue to climb and this is the reason why smallholder farmer are scaling up the acreage,” he said.
“New consumer demands for sisal and natural fibres are expanding the markets for sisal in more high-value applications such as in paper, reinforcing composites and plastic composites,” he added.
He projected output to rise from the current 21,000 tonnes annually to more than 30,000 tonnes in the coming years given the new government initiative to promote the crop.