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Kenya unveils plans to revamp ailing cotton industry

Zoom  Zoom Issue Date:2018-06-06   Browse:1576
 NAIROBI, June 2 (Xinhua) -- Kenya has announced plans aimed at revamping its ailing cotton sector, a government official revealed on Saturday.

Charles Waturu, Director of Horticulture Research Institute at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), said the sub sector has potentials for the manufacturing industry that is one of the key development agendas of the government.

"We have plans to introduce the development of cotton production using hybrids, which will have three times the production yield," Waturu said during a cotton stakeholders meeting in Nairobi.

He said the government has plans to give incentives to investors to build modern ginneries and textile manufacturing plants as part of the revival drive.

"We intend to increase revenue from textile industry from 35 million U.S. dollars to 20 billion dollars," he added.

He said the East Africa country is also exploring the potential of application biotechnology and other plant breeding techniques to help produce quality seeds.

"We have a provisional commercialization of Bt cotton trials road map and has identified in the nine sites for National Performance Trials (NPTs)," he said.

Waturu noted that some 50,000 youths and women are to be trained and 5 million square feet of industrial sheds will be established in cotton-growing regions to boost production.

The scientist observed that additional 500,000 jobs will be created in the sub sector and 100,000 new clothes jobs by the year 2022.

"The cotton sub sector can be revived faster with the adoption of modern technology such as biotechnology," said Edward Nguu, professor at the biochemistry department of University of Nairobi.

"Modern technologies are desirable because they are pest resistance, drought tolerance, cold tolerance and reduces the use of herbicides and chemicals in farming," he added.

He noted that the technologies derived from authorized genetically-modified (GM) crops are as safe as conventional varieties and takes a shorter time to achieve desired results.

"Kenya's cotton has been low in competition to the more efficient producers in India, China, Bangladesh and Vietnam," said Dickson Kibata, Technical Advisor on fiber crops from to the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA).

Kibata said that the leading producers of cotton have in the past years developed integrated strategy that cuts across production and value addition to markets.

He attributed low production of cotton to high energy cost, low technology upgradation and competition from cheap imports.

"The sub sector has outmoded ginneries, spinning and weaving with only garmenting at the Export Promotion Zones (EPZ) which is modernized," he noted.

He revealed that today, only 30,000 farmers are involved in cotton growing that produces 4,000 tonnes against the market demand of 25,000 tonnes, yet the country has the potential for 200,000 farmers as eligible growers.

Kibata revealed that AFA targets productivity efficiency of 2,500 kilograms per hectares in the future compared to the current 572 kilograms per hectares.

"We have started a national cotton classing system through the planting of conventional and hybrid seed varieties," he noted.

Kibata said the Kenyan government is due to launch production of the commodity through irrigation with expectation of 35,000 bales expected to come from irrigation as well as adoption of Bt cotton that is expected to lower the cost of production by 40 percent.

He noted that the government recently appointed a 12-member task force to oversee commercialization of Bt-cotton. 

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