Counties can deliver economic value from cotton, pyrethrum and oil crops

Cotton farm. The government has announced a 38 percent price increase in the purchase of cotton as it moves to entice more farmers to return to the crop. FILE PHOTO | POOL

Last week I watched a plenary engagement involving President William Ruto, governors and private sector representatives on among others reviving cotton, pyrethrum, and oil crops to generate jobs, and catalyse industrialisation, exports, and imports substitution.

The forum was timely as the government implements its manifesto and first budgetary cycle.

However, it is the county governments that will deliver success due to the devolved status of agriculture, supported by ministries with crop research, industrial infrastructure, and marketing.

It is important that champion counties are identified to drive excellence in every aspect of value chains for each of the three crops.

Counties should be designated expert agronomists to steward each crop; make high-yielding planting materials available; support farmers with extension services; and finally, effect efficient harvest collection.

Processing industries should guarantee sustainable markets and timely payments to farmers.

Cotton fabrics are the Kenyan fashion of today, guaranteeing a significant niche market that co-exists alongside second-hand imports.

We also have guaranteed export channels via EPZs and AGOA protocols. However, cotton production must be of high quality, and delivered at competitive costs to match competition from imports.

Cotton-growing counties are advised to bench-mark with the Lake Region of Tanzania on how to organise value chains for quality cotton at reasonable production costs.

Pyrethrum is a quicker crop to grow and scale up once farmers have been mobilised and supplied with quality planting materials.

Memories still exist in pyrethrum-growing areas of a prosperous sector that collapsed in the 1990s.

The Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK), a parastatal, and a private sector processor are already working with counties to relaunch the crop and expand acreage.

Huge local and export demands exist for pyrethrin, which is used to formulate organic pesticides and insecticides.

Oil crops (sunflower, soya and canola) can be easily scaled up on a contract-farmer model once investors and counties enter partnerships that provide farmers with quality seeds and effective field services.

Demands for reasonably priced cooking oil need no elaboration going by recent experiences.

By-products from oil processing are a critical input for animal feeds which have been experiencing shortages and prohibitive costs.

The three crops are sure winners which the national and county government should relaunch with high visibility and sufficient resources.

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