Inside government plan to revive nuts, oil crops

Bernard Nzaro tends to his cashew nut crops at his farm in Tezo, Kilifi County. [Marion Kithi, Standard]

The government has announced a five-year plan to revive the coconut and edible nut sector at the Coast in a bid to reduce the importation of edible oil currently costing the country an estimated Sh120 billion annually.

In the new strategy dubbed Edible Oil Crops Promotion Project, the State will provide incentives to encourage farmers in Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, and Lamu to embrace commercial coconut and cashew nut farming.

The cashew and coconut sectors have recorded a decline in recent years mainly due to a lack of strong market links for farmers in the Coastal region.

The collapse of the sub-sector cooperative societies in the early 1980s denied farmers bargaining power and the opportunity to exploit potential markets in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.

Ageing coconut and cashew nut trees that are low-yielding are a common feature on most farms across the Coast. The crops were also affected by the recent drought and ongoing premature harvesting of young coconut trees for timber.

But in a speech, President William Ruto told farmers at the Coast on Thursday that his administration plans to increase the production of edible oil from the current 80,000 tonnes to 24,000 tonnes in the next five years.

In the speech read by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua at the Mombasa ASK show, the president said the new strategy will also include growing 1.5 million tonnes of soya beans, canola and sunflower.

Mombasa County Agriculture executive Kibibi Adallar Khamisi and her Lamu counterpart James Guchu, during a forum on the production of coconut at Nyuani Farm in Msabaha, Kilifi County, in June. [Marion Kithi, Standard]

Soya beans, canola, and sunflowers are used as raw materials in the extraction of edible oil. Ruto said the objective is to reduce importation of the commodity which costs over Sh120 billion annually.

He added that the initiative will be achieved by investing in the cultivation of oil crops that include palm oil, sunflower, canola, and soya bean.

The Head of State said already, the government has already started procurement of sunflower and soya seeds targeting distribution during the October to November short rains.

In addition, the government will provide 20,000 coconut seedlings to be distributed to the Coastal counties of Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Tana River, Taita Taveta and Mombasa.

According to the government, expected interventions will also expand the area under edible oil crops in the 15 growing counties of Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, Kakamega, Bungoma, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Trans-Nzoia, Nakuru, Taita Taveta, Uasin Gishu, Meru, Nyeri and Makueni.

On cotton production, the president said investment in the value chain has the dual benefit of reducing importation and increasing exports.

"We aim to reduce fabric importation by 50 per cent and increase export to Sh150 billion by the year 2027," Ruto noted.

The president further noted that the government plans to increase the value addition of tea from the current one per cent to 50 per cent by 2027.

"This will greatly increase our earnings. To achieve this, the Government will construct a common user facility at Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Mombasa County among other interventions," Ruto announced.

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