Kenya's Most Authoritative Political Newspaper

Citizen Weekly

Saturday, 25 October 2014

PLANS TO REVIVE SIAYA COTTON GROWING



Cotton was the leading cash crop in Siaya County up to mid 1980’s, but thereafter the business collapsed following massive importation of used clothes (mitumba) allowed into the country leading to the closure of major ginneries and textile industries. This forced farmers to abandon its growing.

Now some local and foreign investors have expressed interest to help revive production and processing of cotton, as a result of renewed demand on the world market.
Former Kenya’s ambassador to USA, Elkana Odembo, who hails from Siaya County, says he has established a local link with some investors from that country interested in invesing in large scale production of cotton. ‘

Besides large scale production, he said the investors would also put up modern machinery to process cotton lint and seed products to give farmers more income.
Odembo, also the Africa Region Vice President of World Credit Council Union (WCCU), said the value addition in lint and seed was a new venture as opposed to the past when old model ginneries did not add value to the harvested crop or by product.

The former envoy paid a courtesy call on the Siaya Governor, Cornel Rasanga, where he presented the investment proposal. He said in collaboration with Cotton Development Authority (CODA), and the county department of agriculture, a process to register interested framers had begun.

“Cotton was just a starting point since local farmers had experience with it, but there were investors interested in other cash crops of which Lake Victoria region has the potential,” Mr. Odembo said adding there was ready market through Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), by which 6,000 cash crops enter the US market with minimal tariffs.

Governor Rasanga said the county had 314,000 hectares of unutilized land, part of which could be used for large scale agribusiness noting that value addition should start from the farms, to create employment opportunities and save farmers the costs of transporting produce to factories.
Ten years ago the national government started an effort to revive cotton farming by giving farmers subsidized seed, fertilizers with a promise of ready market. However, many farmers were reluctant to plant the crop.

‘”Most farmers still perceived cotton growing as low paying with poorly organized markets,” said Solomon Mulindi, the County Director of Agriculture.
The chairman of Alego/Usonga Cotton Farmers Cooperative Society, Caleb Obiero, said with the introduction of the government initiated cotton revival efforts, some of the society members planted and harvested cotton that has hitherto remained unsold, for lack of market or low prices offered by brokers.

Obiero said there about 50 tons of cotton harvested by members but lacked market, because they hoped that they would sell to Ndere ginnery, which the government had promised to revive in 2010. “As priority we want the ginnery revived, to enable as sell the cotton lying in our stores,” said he.

CODA had spearheaded the campaign in the area urging farmers to expand cotton growing, assuring farmers they had established ready markets.
Chrispine Amuono, CODA coordinator for Nyanza region, conceded that the national government had promised to release funds to buy cotton through the Authority to Counties, but that was not done because of restructuring following the coming of devolved governments.
“Nyanza ginnery in Kisumu was one of those institutions contracted to buy cotton from farmers, but they did not get the money,” said Amuono.

Now the coordinator says all was not lost, as the ginnery has applied for sh. 50 million loan from CFC bank to buy cotton. “The ginner was earlier discouraged to take loan because of the high interests, but now with the lowered rates even other ginners could decide to take loans,” said Amuono.

Besides the concern about market, some farmers interviewed were still worried of pricing. “The government promised to buy cotton at sh. 65 per kilo, but middlemen have capitalized on the stalemate and were offering between sh. 30 and 45 per kilo,” said Boaz Majiwa, a farmer in Bondo sub-County.
He said many farmers who resumed the growing of cotton following the governments new initiative, were selling the commodity at the low prices because of the uncertainty.