North Rift counties in drive to increase cotton production


Workers pick cotton on a Rivatex farm. PHOTO | OUMA WANZALA | NMG

North Rift counties have embarked on a plan to revive the cotton industry months after processor Rivatex announced a Sh3 billion upgrade.

The counties are encouraging farmers in Kerio Valley to turn to the crop on the promise that Rivatex will provide a ready market.

Rivatex managing director Thomas Kipkurgat confirmed the firm’s partnership with Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet counties “to increase supply of raw materials for our operations.”

“We are currently producing an average of 10,000 bales against a capacity of 70,000 annually. We are tapping cotton growing counties which have the potential to produce more,” said Prof Kipkurgat.

In May last year, the Moi University-owned Rivatex announced that it had secured funds from India to finance the project. Yesterday, Elgeyo Marakwet deputy governor Wesley Rotich said the county will engage farmers through cooperatives. The region had abandoned cotton farming due to unpaid deliveries which forced farmers to shift to more lucrative ventures like horticulture. According to Mr Rotich, the partnership with Rivatex will ensure that farmers are provided with certified seeds, pesticides and training.

Among wards said to have high potential for cotton farming in Elgeyo Marakwet are Soy South, Soy North, Tambach and Emsoo. Others are Endo, Sambirir and Arror. Mr Rotich said cotton farming excels in Kerio Valley but farmers abandoned the crop due to lack of market and persistent pest and disease attacks.

“This will now change because farmers will be supplied with pesticides as well as high yielding and disease resistant seeds,” said Mr Rotich.

According to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, cotton production has remained below national demand due to unstable international prices and the high cost of production.

The country produces an average of 25,000 bales annually against demand of 200,000 bales, with the deficit covered through imports from neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania as well as the Far East.