State launches new bid to increase cotton yield

Cotton farmer

Collins Kiprotich harvests cotton from their farm in Kiptani sub-location, Keiyo North, Elgeyo-Marakwet County.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The increase of cotton prices has also been a boost to farmers.
  • Siaya County is also planning to modernise Madiany Ginnery.

The national government has embarked on a fresh plan to revive cotton production in the country.

The Ministry of Agriculture and that of Trade and Industrialisation are seeking to increases production threefold in order to boost the textile industry.

Industry Principal Secretary Juma Mukhwana said the plan involves multiplication of seeds, establishment of ginneries, increasing the price of cotton per kilogramme and finding markets for farmers.

Dr Mukhwana, who recently visited the cotton-growing counties of Kisumu, Migori, Homa Bay, Siaya and Busia, said availability of quality seeds has been a major impediment to cotton production in the past.

Other counties where the ministry is focusing on are Elgeyo Marakwet, Bungoma and Baringo.

“We are focusing on seed multiplication. We are cultivating 2,500 acres in Perkerra and other irrigation schemes,” the PS said.

Upon maturity, the seeds will be planted in 24 counties that have been selected to spearhead the efforts to revive the once vibrant cotton value chain.

Cotton was a major source of income for most residents of Nyanza from the 1960s to the early 1980s before the liberalisation of the textiles industry dealt it a major blow.

Quality cotton seeds

Dr Mukhwana further revealed that the government has been forced to import quality cotton seeds from West African countries such as Togo, Chad and Benin to complement local production.

He was speaking in Siaya County on Tuesday where he distributed seeds worth Sh25 million to farmers at Madiany Ginnery.

He was hosted by Governor James Orengo and was accompanied by Cooperatives Principal Secretary Patrick Kilemi and other government officials.

The county government had also hosted an event dubbed “ the cotton, textile and apparels value chain stakeholders engagement forum” at the Siaya Technical Institute. 

Dr Mukwhana noted that there has been steady increase in the production of cotton across the country in recent times.

“As of 2022, we only had 5,000 acres under the crop but, at the end of last year, this had increased to 40,000 acres. We plan to scale it up to 103,000 acres by the end of this year,” he said.

The increase of cotton prices from Sh52 to Sh72 a kilo has also been a boost to farmers.

The government is also targeting to increase the number of ginneries to help in the production of cotton in the country.

Edible oils and animal feed

Dr Mukhwana said there were only seven ginneries in the country but two new ones have been built by the national government in Busia and Kwale counties in the past year.

“Five acres have been made available in Homa Bay and another 10 in Lamu where investors will put up more ginneries,” said Dr Mukhwana.

Siaya County is also planning to modernise Madiany Ginnery to serve the entire Nyanza and Western regions.

According to Governor Orengo, there is great potential to increase production to the ideal yield of 2,500 kilos per hectare, as opposed to the 300 kilos that are being realised currently.

“It is a shame that we have to import raw materials and food that could be grown locally. Siaya has great potential for cotton production and we have to capitalise on this by modernising our value chain and optimising our production,” said Mr Orengo.

Apart from producing textiles, the raw material will also be used in the production of edible oils and animal feed.

Mr Kilemi challenged Siaya farmers to ensure that the county goes back to its glorious days when cotton production was the backbone of its economy. 

Homa Bay County has also increased the acreage under the crop and embarked on the distribution of certified seeds to farmers.

Cotton production

The county used to be one of the major cotton producers between the 1990s and 2000.

Its black cotton soil and favourable weather conditions made the crop thrive. However, mismanagement of cooperative societies and other challenges forced growers to abandon cotton and switch to other crops.

The seed distribution drive was launched on Monday by Mr Kilemi alongside Homa Bay Deputy Governor Oyugi Magwanga and Rift Valley Products Ltd Manager Sital Panara. Up to 48.6 metric tonnes of cotton seeds including Bt and open-pollinated seeds will be distributed to 10,733 farmers across the county.

“My department had sent a proposal to the National Treasury for the construction of a ginnery in Homa Bay in the 2024-2025 financial year,” the PS said. 

Mr Kilemi revealed that the government has ordered State agencies to prioritise local factories in the supply of uniforms and other textiles. It has also imposed high taxes on imported apparel to spur local production.

On his part, Mr Magwanga said the county government has put in place a raft of measures to boost cotton production. 

“We have increased the size of land under cotton to at least 19,000 acres,” he said.

Mr Magwanga, who doubles up as the county’s Agriculture executive, said the administration that is led by Governor Gladys Wanga has identified cotton as a priority cash crop for the county.