Cotton production hit as supplier of GM seeds pulls out


A farmer harvests his cotton crop in Thika. FILE PHOTO | NMG

An Indian firm contracted to supply genetically modified (GM) cotton seed to Kenyan farmers has stopped distribution of the planting material, dealing a big blow to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s manufacturing agenda.

Agriculture Cabinet secretary Peter Munya said the Indian-based conglomerate Mahyco – the sole maker and distributor of the seed worldwide, has had running problems with supplying the product to local farmers.

Kenya had in 2018 approved the cultivation of GMO cotton to boost production under the open field cultivation while commercialisation started in 2020 as the government sought to increase volumes of the crop to spur manufacturing, which is one of the items on the Big Four agenda.

“We want Kenya Agriculture Livestock and Research Organisation to develop our own cotton seed because we cannot rely on one company, which is no longer selling the seed to our farmers,” he said.

Mr Munya said it was important for Kenya to have its own variety of hybrid seeds to avoid running into supply problems.

Rajeev Arora, Mahyco Africa regional manager, said “I have no comment on this” when the Business Daily reached out to him.

The hiccup in supply has hit cotton farmers as it has delayed the planting of this year’s first season, which was to coincide with the long rains that began in March.

Roy Mugiira, acting chief executive at National Biosafety Authority — sector regulator — said there had been a challenge in terms of seed multiplication by the sole company that was given the task.

“The challenge that we are having now is seed multiplication, a company that was given that role had some challenges but I think that is being addressed by the authorities,” said Mr Mugiira.

Kenya was banking on this high-yielding variety, which requires less rain and minimum usage of pesticides to improve productivity.

Cotton production has been falling in the country since the 1980s with Kenya relying on imports to bridge the deficit.

According to the directorate of fibre crops, Kenya requires a total of 120,000 bales of lint per year meaning that the country imports over half of the required quantities to keep the factories running.

There are about four active ginneries in the country at the moment –in Meru, Baringo, Makueni and Kitui.

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