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Good times ahead for pyrethrum farmers as State to issue 60m seedlings

pyreth

Farmers harvest pyrethrum flowers in Molo, Nakuru. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • The Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mwangi Kiunjuri said over four investors have approached the ministry seeking to buy dried pyrethrum flowers.
  • The CS said buyers are willing to purchase a kilogram of dried pyrethrum flowers from Sh200-Sh250 but Kenya is pushing for more.
  • Among the 19 counties that the ministry has already tested their soils and found them fit for growing of the crop are Nakuru, Kiambu, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Laikipia, Meru, Embu, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma (Mt Elgon), Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Kericho, Bomet, Narok, Nyamira and Kisii.

In efforts to revive the pyrethrum industry, the government plans to distribute 60 million seedlings to farmers in 19 counties starting next year.

This is after the government established market in United States and Asia.

The Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mwangi Kiunjuri said over four investors have approached the ministry seeking to buy dried pyrethrum flowers.

“We are not ready to let such an opportunity fade away and it is in this regard that we have decided to provide farmers with certified and subsidised seedlings by the start of the longs rains next year,” he told the Sunday Nation.

For a farmer to put an acre under pyrethrum, he said, one requires more than Sh40 million to buy seedlings. This is prohibitive and many cannot afford, said the CS, adding that it is because of this reason that they have decided to distribute the certified and subsidised seedlings.

The CS said buyers are willing to purchase a kilogram of dried pyrethrum flowers from Sh200-Sh250 but Kenya is pushing for more.

Among the 19 counties that the ministry has already tested their soils and found them fit for growing of the crop are Nakuru, Kiambu, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Laikipia, Meru, Embu, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma (Mt Elgon), Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Kericho, Bomet, Narok, Nyamira and Kisii.

In the next one year and in collaboration with the county governments, he said they want to make sure 15,000-20,000 acres are under pyrethrum.

“I am encouraging women and youth to join groups and acquire clonal splits from the ministry and grow them to earn a living and help in seeds multiplication,” he stated.

Kenya has the potential to produce and process 20,000 metric tonnes (MT) of pyrethrum flowers to earn Sh7.5 billion for farmers per year and Sh5.8 billion in foreign exchange from refined extract alone.

With direct or indirect linkage to the crop that best grows at an altitude of 1,700 to 2,900 metres above sea level, it can provide a livelihood to three million people.

In the 90s, Kenya was controlling over 90 percent of the world market compared to the current share of only 2 percent.

Over time, production declined and Kenya lost the market to Australia which took over with the island state of Tasmania later taking over the growing and processing in early 2000.

By 2010, Tasmania controlled 65 percent of the world’s pyrethrum production. Other countries producing the crop are China, Rwanda and Tanzania, which now control world market.

Production of pyrethrum in the country declined from a high of 18,000 metric tonnes in 1992 to the current national production of about 500 metric tonnes.

The current acreage under the crop is about 3,000 acres and the number of growers has also drastically reduced to 8,000 from 40,000.

In 1990s, pyrethrum was a major foreign earner that brought in over Sh2.1 billion at its peak in 1996 compared to current Sh120 million. The crop also saw over 200,000 small-scale growers benefit directly in 1980s-1990s.

According to a pyrethrum report from the Ministry of Agriculture, the crop started declining in 2004-2005.

The main reason for the drop was inconsistent payment to growers, unmatched market demand and production and unfavourable industry legal framework.

Pyrethrum is a crop that has been grown in Kenya since 1928 and produces pyrethrins used as natural insecticides and pesticide for agricultural, pharmaceutical and domestic use.

However, Mr Kiunjuri said they have conducted several reforms in the sector which will now see the industry bounce back to its lost glory.

After enactment of the Crops Act 2013, and in line with the agriculture sector reforms, he said the industry was reorganised through separation of the regulatory and commercial functions of the former Pyrethrum Board of Kenya (PBK).

In the arrangement, he went on, the regulatory functions have been ceded to the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) through the miraa, pyrethrum and other industrial crops directorate whose functions are to develop and promote the Kenya pyrethrum industry.

Mr Kiunjuri noted that commercial and processing functions are being played by Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya.

The role of the company is collection, payment and processing of growers’ dry flowers, marketing pyrethrum and pyrethrum products and provision of technical and scientific services relating to the crop.

Currently, the PBK processing plant in Nakuru operates at 10 percent of its capacity due to lack of flowers. Nevertheless, the company has one of the leading refining plants globally and is able to produce high quality extracts that are preferred by the market.

However, the Agriculture minister affirmed the industry is currently recovering and has attracted four processing companies in the country.

He stated, “Currently, six new companies have applied for licensing as processor and are at various stages of licensing.”

They include Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (capacity of 25MT per day operating at 50MT per day. This firm is, however, yet to be commissioned.