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State dispatches free hybrid cotton seeds to counties

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State dispatches free hybrid cotton seeds to counties by Saocv(1): Thu 16, April, 2020 11:33pm
Consignment of 16 metric tonnes part of government’s grand plans to revive textiles sector

By Bernadette Khaduli/KNA

The government, in its push to revive the cotton industry in the country, has started distributing free cotton seeds, including a genetically modified variety, to farmers in Western, Coast, Rift Valley and Nyanza regions.

While flagging off the consignment for distribution to the counties of Busia, Bungoma, Siaya, Kisumu, Homabay, Baringo, Elgeyo /Marakwet, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River and Lamu, Agriculture CAS Anne Nyaga said 16 metric tonnes of hybrid seeds and one metric tonne of BT cotton seeds will be distributed across 24 counties.

The consignment of improved seeds is worth Sh64 million and is expected to produce more than 2,000kg of cotton per hectare. The current variety of cotton yields an average of 572kg per hectare.

“It is projected that cotton production will grow from a current low of 29,000 bales per year to about 200,000 bales by the year 2020,” she said.

The Cabinet approved commercial farming of the genetically improved cotton on December 19 last year in a plan to revitalise the country’s cotton, textile, and apparel sector.

Bt-cotton has the ability to resist the African bollworm, the single-most destructive cotton pest, causing up to 100 per cent crop loss.

The CAS said the ministry of Agriculture will establish 720 demonstration sites of BT-Cotton in selected counties during the long rains to train farmers and extension service providers across the country.

“We intend to use the demonstration sites to educate farmers so that full commercialisation is done during the short rains of October and November,” she added.

She said cotton can potentially be grown in 24 counties in arid and semi-arid areas, noting that production of the crop declined from 70,000 bales in 1986 to 20,000 bales in 1990.

Today, domestic market demand alone is 110,000 bales.

“The potential land is 400,000 ha while presently only under 30,000 ha is being utilised. Currently there are about 30,000 cotton farmers while the industry can support over 200,000 farmers,” she said.

Ms. Nyaga said the government, in collaboration with local and international seed companies, local research institutions, textile and apparel sector and other development partners, will, in the next three years, strengthen policies, research and development of cotton production and value-addition.

She added that that the industry has the potential to employ 1.5 million people under the cotton, textile and clothing value-chain.

“Income earnings to growers will contribute to poverty reduction, especially in arid and semi-arid lands,” she said.

She said the government is addressing the key challenges that have constrained cotton production in the country. Among them is inadequate extension services, insufficient integration of the value chain, high cost of production, lack of certified seeds and unaffordable credit.

Other challenges include fluctuation of seed cotton prices, weak farmer organisations, low production and productivity and obsolete equipment.

“To address these challenges, the government commenced the process of supplying certified hybrid seeds which can produce over 2,000 kilos of seed cotton per hectare,” Nyaga said.

Kenya’s Textile exports enjoy quota and duty free access to the US market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in addition to preferential treatment in the European Union and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) markets.

Interim Director General of Agriculture and Food Authority Mr. Antony Mureithi said with the new Bt-Hybrid cotton seeds, the country is looking forward to a vibrant cotton industry that will bring value addition, rejuvenate the cotton ginneries and textile mills.

“Currently, we are importing a lot of vegetable oil, but with high production, we will make cotton oil which is cholesterol free,” he said.

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