Kenya produces only 30, 000 bales of cotton, translating to 20% but imports the rest (80%) of the cash crop from Tanzania and Uganda.
The Cotton Development Authority (CDA), Nyanza Zonal Coordinator, Mr. Chrispine Odhiambo disclosed that Kenya has the potential of producing 500, 000 bales compared to Tanzania which churns out 750, 000 bales.
Addressing Nyando District Agricultural Field Day at Boya - Onjiko location in Kisumu County, Odhiambo stated that all Districts around Lake Victoria are suitable for cotton growing as the temperatures are quite high except Kisii area which is very cold.
“About 1,500 farmers in Nyando, Nyakach and Muhoroni districts produce 40 tons of cotton with several cottage industries established in the Western Kenya region promoting value addition through training them on cotton regulation and licensed buying the cash crop from farmers”, he said.
He further revealed that they also ensure the weighing scale is certified to avoid cases of farmers being fleeced by unscrupulous traders and middlemen.
Odhiambo warned that some agents pick cotton from farmers but fail to pay. To curb this vice, he said the Cotton Development Authority usually makes follow ups and ultimately helps the farmers recover their dues, adding that they will always strive to lock out con men.
However, Odhiambo said the liberalization process was put into motion without adequately preparing the cotton farmers on how best to deal with the anticipated challenges and stiff competition posed by other players in the textile industry.
“Although the farmers have to contend with competition from Mitumba business, poor quality seeds have also compromised returns but we are working closely with Kenya Seed Company and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) to produce certified seeds”, he revealed.
Odhiambo also attributed the problem of marketing to the ever fluctuating prices of cotton globally, but urged cotton farmers to venture into value addition if they hope to maximize their profits.
“Our cotton farmers must also move swiftly to promote formation of groups to facilitate the marketing of their produce. Currently, it costs between Kshs.15, 000 to 20, 000 to grow an acre, but this can generate Kshs.35, 000 as cotton matures in 4 months”, he explained.
He disclosed that in China a ginning machine costs Kshs.200, 000 with cotton Oil Press machine going for a similar amount that could be easily raised if the farmers join into groups.
The forum was also addressed by Nyando District Agricultural Officer (DAO), Tabitha Ajwang and Kibos Sugar and Allied Industries Limited (KSAIL), Agricultural Manager, Vitalis Ogolla and Equity Bank representative in charge of farming activities, Kevin Ochieng among others.
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