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Cotton prices up in raft of incentives for sector

Cotton farmers are set to earn more from the crop after the government increased producer prices per kilogramme from Sh42 to Sh50.

The move is intended to woo growers who have abandoned the crop, forcing ginneries to mill at below capacity.

The Fibre Crops directorate— which manages cotton and sisal in the country— said the decision to review the price was reached at as one of the many incentives that the government has lined up to revive the sector.

Meru ginnery, which has a production capacity of 20,000 kilogrammes per day is just able to produce 1,000 tonnes a year leaving a huge capacity unutilised.

Head of the directorate Anthony Muriithi said apart from offering farmers good prices, they have also secured them a ready market for their produce. Farmers have entered into contract with the ginneries and spinners, ensuring that their crop is bought as soon as it is ready.

“We want to revive cotton in the country and one of the ways is to ensure that the growers get a good price for their crop,” said Mr Muriithi.

Kenya, whose production of the crop has plummeted to historic low, has been paying the lowest amount for a kilo of cotton compared to other regional countries.

Tanzania and Uganda are both paying their farmers Sh50 per kilogramme and they are producing 150,000 (Uganda) and 450,000 (Tanzania) bales of cotton annually while Kenya only manages a paltry 20,000 bales down from 70,000 in 1980s.

The cotton sector hit the headwinds from the early 1990s after the entry into the market of second hand clothes, which spelt the death knell for the local textile industry.

The shortage of cotton has seen spinners resort to imports in order to meet the growing demand for textile in the country.

Meru ginnery general manager David Kihoro said they have been forced to guarantee farmers on farm inputs from agro dealers in order to encourage them to grow the crop and boost supplies.

“We are in a deal with a group of farmers who take farming inputs from agro dealers and then we guarantee them to make it easy for these growers to access the implements,’ said Mr Kihoro.

Mr Kihoro says the ginnery buys cotton from farmers in Upper Eastern and Bura regions and sell the lint to Rivatex at Sh152 per kilogramme. 

The government is importing two tonnes of certified seeds from Israel to distribute to local small scale cotton farmers in the coming long rains season.

Agriculture secretary Willy Bett says the state is importing the high yielding seeds from Hazera Genetics through Amiran Kenya Limited.

Hazera is a global leader in seed industry and is headquartered in Israel. Mr Bett noted that the importation deal is being undertaken with a view to improving local cotton productivity as well as increasing farmers’ income.

Globally, China is the leading cotton producer at 26 million tonnes annually, accounting for 80 per cent of the total global supply.

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