Kenya Set to Revive Cotton Industry
Panafrican News Agency, 18 December 2000
The authorities in Kenya have outlined strategies aimed at reviving the country's cotton sector, which has been tottering on the brink of collapse following the liberalisation of the textile industry.
Officials say the laid down strategies are also part of the government's efforts to reduce poverty, especially in the cotton growing areas.
The bulk of the crop is grown in western Kenya, where, before the partial collapse of the industry, big names in the textile industry such as the Kisumu Cotton Mills (KICOMI), Rift Valley Textiles (RIVATEX) and others were household names.
According to the minister of Agriculture, Chris Obure, to achieve the objectives of reviving the industry, government will first address issues of production, marketing and review the present regulations on the management of the crop.
"The ministry (of agriculture) has finalised reparations of a cotton policy paper which contains the strategies for revitalising the industry.
"This will entail addressing the issues related to production, marketing and overall review of the old cotton Act, and the establishment of a new regulatory body," said Obure.
He added that the Cotton Board of Kenya, the state owned firm which oversees the cultivation and marketing of the crop, will be reconstituted, to be able to handle the industry in a liberalised environment.
"The problems of marketing the crop, which essentially contributed most to the decline of the industry will be our first priority," Obure explained.
"With liberalisation, farmers started selling their crop to middlemen and abandoned their co-operative societies, and due to exploitation, they (farmers) ended up being messed up," he added.
Obure says the revival of the industry was "timely" considering the fact that the United States government has opened its markets to Kenyan textiles and other goods from the region, through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
"Kenya's access to the American market through AGOA will provide external markets for local textiles and apparels hence trigger higher production of cotton," Said Obure.
The Cotton Board of Kenya has 24 cotton ginneries, most of which are under-utilised. Some of them have already been taken over by private investors.
In early 2000, operators of cotton ginneries formed the Kenya Ginners Association in a bid to consolidate efforts in cotton production and improved marketing.
It is now hoped that through the association, ginneries will provide market outlets for cotton and support farmers in cotton production, and also develop a sustainable programme for future cotton seed supply.
And to facilitate quick return to normalcy in the industry, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) has developed new high-yield cotton varieties suitable for specific regions of the country.
The recommended varieties, according to KARI officials in Kisumu are, LKSA81M for Nyanza, Western and Rift Valley provinces, while HART89M is suitable for Eastern Central and Coast Provinces.
Obure says the revival of the industry was top on the list of priorities by government, as spelt out in its interim poverty reduction strategy paper published early 2000.
He adds that, in order to give the initial momentum for the industry's revival, his ministry will this financial year, supply 600 tonnes of cotton seeds valued at over 65,000 US dollars, to be distributed to 29 cotton growing districts countrywide.
He further observed that last week, the authorities organised a high level meeting of stakeholders in the industry, where policies, legal and institutional arrangements of the new developments in the cotton sector were discussed.
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