The Kirinyaga County Government has embarked on plans that will see at least 800 acres of land placed under BT Cotton as the county draws recovery of its textile and apparel sector.
About 100 farmers have already embarked on planting the hybrid cotton variety on 110 acres after receiving seeds from the Fibre Crops Directorate.
Governor Anne Waiguru has further directed the county’s agriculture and trade and industries departments to direct resources that will ensure increased cotton production and revival of the Mwea Ginnery whose operations stalled after years of neglect.
The cotton farmers under Kirinyaga Cotton Cooperative Society are organized in 5 clusters namely Riagiceru-Murinduko, South Ngariama, Nyangati, Tebere and Mutithi.
According to Waiguru, revival of the crop and ginnery will go a long way in enhancing the agricultural potential in the county, increase income among farmers and create the much needed jobs.
“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,” said Governor Waiguru.
BT cotton has been backed by KALRO researchers to help in reducing the cost of input used by farmers such as fertilizer and insecticides due to its pest-resistance nature.
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.
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.
Data from the county’s agriculture department indicate that farm-gate prices for conventional cotton has been about Kshs. 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.