Pyrethrum farmers are set for good tidings following increased interest in the sector by foreign investors.
This follows an announcement by US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter that investors from his country are already in Kenya scouting to establish pyrethrum processing plants.
McCarter said some US investors have already started setting up production factories in Nairobi.
“Pyrethrum is something that Kenya historically has seen a lot of prosperity from, and that market is coming back,” the envoy said during his tour of North Rift region recently. The envoy, who was speaking in Iten, Elgeyo-Marakwet County, said the US will continue supporting investments in Kenya, particularly in agriculture.
The cash crop used in the manufacture of agrochemicals including insecticides and pesticides was abandoned in the late 1990s following declining fortunes occasioned by the loss of key markets.
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McCarter encouraged pyrethrum manufacturers who had quit the business in Kenya to return, saying there was immense potential in the sector.
“We shall continue our support for agriculture. We have some US investors who are already in Kenya now to invest in pyrethrum. We want to encourage investors who left the country to return,” he said.
Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos said his county was the second-largest producer of pyrethrum before the loss of market that triggered a shift to potatoes.
The county boss noted that farmers from Elgeyo Marakwet highlands were ready for a revival of the crop as soon they are assured of a market.
“We invite investors from the US to our county. I wish we knew when the production factory was being established in Nairobi. We would have requested them to set it up in Elgeyo Marakwet,” said Tolgos.
He wooed American investors to set up another processing factory in Elgeyo Marakwet, which he noted will reduce transport costs to Nairobi.
“Once we are assured of a market, our people will immediately start growing pyrethrum. We will also increase funds to the sector in our subsequent allocations.”
Early this year, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui announced plans to revive pyrethrum through a partnership with four State agencies.
These are Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya and Egerton University.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Kenya was a major producer and player in the world’s pyrethrum sector. Nakuru, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kiambu, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Kisii and West Pokot were the highest producers.