The government has cleared a 70 million shillings outstanding debt owed to pyrethrum farmers over the last five years.
Pyrethrum Processing Company Managing Director Paul Lolwerkoi says focus has now shifted to recruiting more farmers to grow the cash crop that was once among the country’s top foreign exchange earner.
The Pyrethrum sub sector hit headwinds in 2003 due to increasing production costs and delayed payment to farmers by the Pyrethrum Processing Company, formerly known as the Pyrethrum Regulatory Authority.
Last year, pyrethrum earnings dropped 42 per cent as debt-ridden farmers continued to abandon the crop. There however seems to be hope after the government cleared all outstanding debts owed to farmers amounting to 70 million shillings.
Lolwerkoi is now calling on farmers to collect seeds from the company. He says the processing company has developed high breed seed varieties at the Molo nursery that will cover 10,000 hectares.
“We have engaged Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and other researchers to develop hybrid seed varieties for pyrethrum farmers,” he said.
The firm is targeting to increase acreage of land under pyrethrum to 6,000 hectares within 18 pyrethrum growing counties with the hope of reviving the dwindling fortunes of the cash crop.
According to a 2014 report by Pyrethrum Growers Association, Kenya’s production fell 91 per cent between 2003 and 2011, as payment issues at PBK and the rise of synthetic insecticides took their toll.
Currently, the world demand for pyrethrum stands at 8,000 tonnes annually, with the production in Kenya having dropped to less than three per cent of the global requirement.
At the same time the county government of Nakuru plans to inject 29 million shillings into PPC to fund research and development of the cash crop as well as in training of more extension workers.
PPC has been put to task to put in place measures that will eliminate middlemen in the subsector’s recovery strategy.