About 100 cotton farmers in Kirinyaga are pushing the county government to hasten the revival of the cotton ginnery in Mwea.
The farmers who have already come together and formed an association to help them deal with the issues of the BT cotton claim the county is slow in the revival of the ginnery.
The chairman of the cotton farmer’s association Mbeu Kuria said the county government has already given them a word over the revival of the ginnery but they want the unit operationalised.
“It is true the County government has said they have plans in place to revive Mwea Cotton Ginnery with the aim of supporting cotton farmers whose number has risen after the introduction of BT cotton in the county,” he said.
About 100 farmers last season planted BT cotton on an estimated 110 acres after receiving seeds from the Fiber Crops Directorate.
The cotton farmers under Kirinyaga Cotton Cooperative Society are organised into five clusters namely Riagiceru-Murinduko, South Ngariama, Nyangati, Tebere, and Mutithi.
Governor Anne Waiguru has already tasked the departments of agriculture and that of trade and industries to work together to ensure that there is increased cotton production and that the Mwea Ginnery whose operations stopped some years back is revived
She said the revival of cotton farming will go a long way in enhancing the agricultural potential in the county whereby farmers will benefit from the sale of their produce, and many job opportunities will be created in the cotton value chain, significantly contributing to the socio-economic growth and improving livelihoods in the county.
“The reopening of the ginnery will give rise to textile industries in the area thereby creating investment and employment opportunities for area residents,” she said.
The governor said that BT cotton farming is advantageous since it will save farmers from the increased cost of production brought about by the use of insecticides, noting that the conventional varieties that farmers have been growing were prone to bollworm attacks which required spraying with insecticides several times before maturity.
She said apart from being disease resistant, BT cotton takes a short time to mature and yields almost three times more than the traditional variety.
“Revival of Mwea ginnery may require upgrading of the existing equipment as well as putting in new ones. I have therefore tasked my officers to look into this and immediately come up with an operationalisation model that can be implemented,” Waiguru said
Production of BT cotton per acre is projected at 1.4 tons against the regular cotton yields of less than 0.8 tons per acre according to Waiguru. She said the potential for BT cotton in the county is high given that there is over 800 acres of land suitable for cotton production.
Data from the county’s department of agriculture indicate the farm-gate prices for conventional cotton has been about Sh.52 per kilogram with the price of BT Cotton variety having a potential of fetching up to Sh 100 per kilo.
Farmers will sell their cotton through the local cotton cooperative societies to Agriculture, Fisheries & Food Authority (AFFA) appointed ginneries. “This price is expected to go up as demand for local cotton goes up with the revival of the local textile industry, ’Waiguru said
She said one of the markets targeted by cotton growers in Kenya include the recently revived Rivatex textile factory in Eldoret, Kisumu Cotton Mills (KICOMI), and Mt Kenya Textiles in Nanyuki.
“If we increase the acreage to about 500 acres and the farm gate price of BT cotton increases from the current Sh. 52 to around Sh. 100 per kilo, we can have farmers in the county earning up to Sh 70 million in a season,”said Governor Waiguru.
The government legalised commercial cultivation of BT cotton last year after years of the trial at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) centre in Mwea.
It is expected to be a major boost to the manufacturing pillar of the country’s Big Four Agenda.