Looming plastics ban offers chance to revive sisal sector, investors say

A worker at a sisal processing plant. FILE PHOTO  | NMG
A worker at a sisal processing plant. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The looming ban on manufacture and import of plastic bags has been welcomed by stakeholders and experts in the sisal industry.

Investors in the industry say plastics have taken a big proportion of the packaging market and have contributed to the decline of sisal sector. The ban will help to revive the fibre crop, they say.

Led by the interim head of the Fibre Crops Directorate, Mr Anthony Muriithi, they said sisal can be used as an alternative and thus offers a chance to restore the sector.

Mr Muriithi noted that in 2016, Kenya produced 21,459.61 metric tonnes valued at Sh4.2 billion. He pointed out that the coastal region leads in production, with big sisal estates in Kilifi, Vipingo, Voi and Taita.

More than 80 per cent of the sisal fibre produced is exported to 30 destinations worldwide, he said.

The major export destinations for sisal exports are Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, China and Morocco.

Sisal processing

Kenya has three factories manufacturing bag and cordage for local use while some of is exported to the East African Community markets, Mr Muriithi said.

“The ban means the bag and cordage factories will get a market for the bags and baskets,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) Director General Geoffrey Wahungu.

“The general awareness of the public on the environmental menace caused by plastics will be a big thrust for the industry in the coming days.

Mr Muriithi further revealed that, the government research on sisal at the then High Level Sisal Research Station at Thika was discontinued in 1972 follow the influx of synthetic fibres.

“The invention of manmade (synthetic) fibres was the reason behind the discontinued research on sisal,” he said.