County plans to revive ginnery as farmers adopt BT cotton farming
Kirinyaga County Government is planning 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.
About 100 farmers have this season planted BT cotton on an estimated 110 acres after receiving seeds from the Fibre Crops Directorate. The cotton farmers under Kirinyaga Cotton Cooperative Society are organized in 5 clusters namely Riagiceru-Murinduko, South Ngariama, Nyangati, Tebere and Mutithi.
Governor Anne Waiguru says that she has 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 added that revival of cotton farming will go a long way in enhancing the agricultural potential in the county whereby farmers will benefit from 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.
Governor Waiguru noted that reopening of the ginnery will give rise to textile industries in the area thereby creating investment and employment opportunities for area residents. She pointed out that BT cotton farming was advantageous since it will save farmers from increased cost of production brought about by use of insecticides, noting that the conventional varieties that farmers grow were prone to bollworm attacks which required spraying with insecticides several times before maturity.
The Governor said that 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 operationalization model that can be implemented.” She said that 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. She added that 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 Ksh. 52 per kilogram with the price of BT Cotton variety having a potential of fetching up to Ksh. 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 revival of local textile industry.
Some 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 Ksh. 52 to around Ksh. 100 per kilo, we can have farmers in the county earning up to Ksh. 70 million in a season”. Said Governor Waiguru.
The government legalized commercial cultivation of BT cotton last year after years of trial at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) center in Mwea. It is expected to be a major boost to the manufacturing pillar of the country’s Big Four Agenda.