State To Revive Cotton Sector, Reactivate Rural Economy

The Government, through the Ministry of Investments Trade and Industry, is keen on revitalizing the textile industry by utilizing all the available resources to actualize the potential for job creation and export growth. The National government, the Council of Governors (CoG), together with RIVATEX East Africa Limited (REAL), held a comprehensive Consultative Forum with Governors from the 24 cotton growing counties, at an Eldoret hotel in Uasin Gishu, to discuss the modalities of finding certified seeds to be distributed to farmers as well as proper extension services, to boost cotton production in country. Speaking during the forum, the Principal Secretary (PS), State Department for Industry, Dr. Juma Mukwana, pointed out that in the Kenya Vision 2030, the textile sector has been identified as a key driver for industrialization that could the develop Kenyan economy and enhance the country's image as Africa's hub for information and green manufacturing, thereby spurring Kenya into an industrialized middle- income country that provides quality life to its citizens He revealed that the government has pumped Sh5 billion to revamp Rivatex, to enhance its capacity in terms of the best modern fabric production machinery in East and Central Africa. 'We see the textile sector as a sitting giant, so we want to utilize all the available resources to actualize the potential for job creation and export growth,' he noted. He outlined some of the benefits the country would gain through revitalizing the value chain such as reactivation of the rural economy, targeting the 24 counties identified with the ability to grow cotton, creation of jobs, especially within the textile cotton value chain, to increase cotton production from 40,000 acres last year to 100,000 acres this year and up to 340,000 acres in three years, which would produce enough volumes of cotton to satisfy both local and the international demand. He attributed the current low cotton yields per acre to poor quality seeds, as he called for collective efforts b etween the government agencies such as KALRO, KEPHIS, Counties, and the private sector, to work together to ensure farmers obtained certified seeds which would give high yields. 'Our cotton yields per acre have been quite low, especially the Open Pollinated varieties (OPVs), which give between 250-300kgs per acre and the BT Cotton gives 500kg per acre. With proper input, a farmer is able to produce up to 1,000 kgs of cotton per acre. Poor yield means we have not paid much attention to quality seed production,' explained Dr. Mukwana. The PS expressed concern that the textile industries in Kenya such as those in Athi River, EPZ import 100 percent of their raw materials from outside, because the country is not able to meet the demand both locally and internationally. He indicated that in support of the Bottom-Up Transformation Agenda (BETA), they have adopted a value chain approach, bringing together National and County governments growing cotton, private sector stakeholders, ginners to work together, to ensu re seed availability and distribution, before the planting season and ensuring prices are increased to boost farmers income. 'We called this meeting with governors from the 24 counties with the ability to grow cotton. As we know, rains are near, we have discussed seed availability and distribution before rains begin. We have discussed prices; last year, farmers got Sh52 per kilo. This year we have increased to Sh72 per kilo. We want to make sure farmers get good earnings from the cotton sales,' he added. Noting that most of the clothes in Kenya are made of cotton textile and apparel which is imported from outside because we do not produce enough, the PS hinted that the Government is working towards ensuring that in three years, Kenya would be independent in terms of enough cotton production to meet both local and international demand. Dr. Mukhwana further noted that Kenya is better placed to benefit a great deal from cotton products, through African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which would help her t o sell clothes in the US duty free, quota free, but the country has never been able to fulfil the agreement in terms of producing enough cloths to meet the demand by the US people because our cotton has been little. Busia Governor Paul Otuoma alluded that they have discussed and agreed as cotton growing counties, together with stakeholders on a way forward, to enable Kenya produce enough cotton to meet its local demand and international demand, so as to make cloths for the country and for export. Additionally, he said, they have identified various challenges that led to decline in the cotton sector such as poor prices, delayed payments to farmers, poor extension services and others and that they devised plans to ensure those challenges are addressed to give farmers opportunity and support to produce enough cotton. 'We don't want you to produce about 300 kilos per acre, yet you have a potential of producing more than 1,000 kgs of cotton per acre when you are given the right tools and equipment, fertilizer a nd extension services,' he said, adding, 'as you consider the current prices, we will be able to enable farmers to earn enough money at the grassroots. That is how the country will be able to fight poverty and address unemployment, because cotton will bring-up industries including cotton ginning, value addition and others.' 'By products like cotton seeds will produce animal feeds and the country will see money going to the grassroots,' added Otuoma. The Governor called on the government and other stakeholders to put proper mechanisms in place, to achieve the set target of 340,000 acres of cotton in a three- years' period. He decried that it was disgraceful to find that when you go to the EPZs where clothes are made, there is not even a single input of Kenyan farmers, noting that the country is just watching lucrative investment walking away. RIVATEX Managing Director (MD) Prof. Thomas Kipkurgat commended the government for the move to revitalize the textile sector, noting that the industry would be able t o obtain sufficient raw materials. He noted that they have modernized the industry, but the problem is lack of enough materials which is 90 percent cotton. Prof Kipkurgat pointed out that the main challenge they had for AGOA was that they have not met their demand because of a few things including raw materials and accreditation, which RIVATEX is currently doing, to be able to sell clothes to EPZ firms, who buy up to Sh40 billion worth every year. 'In cotton value chain, cotton comes from farmers to the ginnery, where we buy cotton lint which we use to make yarn, fabric and up to finished products. Our aim is to ensure farmers get money from their cotton, ginners get money and Rivatex make clothes to sell to Export Processing Zones (EPZs),' he said. The MD warned that cotton as raw material was key to the County Aggregation and Industrial Parks (CAIPs) that the government has begun. 'The projects will not be viable if we don't have enough raw material such as cotton. They will turn to 'white elephant proj ects', he noted. Source: Kenya News Agency