The government has launched a genetically modified pest resistant cotton seed variety dubbed BT to revitalise the moribund industry.
The launch makes Kenya the seventh country in Africa and 15th globally to embrace the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) cotton.
While presiding over the launch at the Alupe University College in Busia on Monday, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said farmers were bound to reap from the new variety.
The function was also attended by Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong.
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Mr Munya disclosed that there would be at least 1,000 demonstration farms in the country to train farmers on the new technology before they could start planting in their individual farms.
The BT was described as high-yielding and drought and pest resistant. According to Munya, the launch of BT cotton is a step towards reviving the cotton industry.
“The new seed will boost cotton production by improving yield per unit area and guarantee our textile factories of sufficient raw materials,” said Munya.
Of the 47 counties, only 23 are growing cotton.
The CS said government would not put up more textile factories, but noted that there was money for the revival of the collapsed ginneries not only in Busia but in other counties as well.
“We want to see primary processing of the cotton to be done in ginneries that we are trying to revive in different parts of the country to create job opportunities,” said Munya.
He added: “Even the ones we already have are not getting enough raw materials at the moment. With launch of BT cotton I have no doubt that very soon there will be enough surplus for cotton in our country.”1
Mr Munya urged the county governments to compliment the effort to revive cotton farming by sending field extension officers to offer guidance to farmers.
Mulwanda Cotton Ginnery in Busia is being revived by the national government to the tune of Sh30 million. Principal Secretary, State Department of Cooperatives Ali Noor said it would be up and running before end of the current financial year.
According to Noor, farmers would not incur a lot of costs to maintain the BT cotton. “You do not have to spend much to buy a lot of pesticide because the new variety is drought resistant and yield is high,” said Noor.
He hinted that a farmer was likely to realise three tonnes from one acre of BT cotton. “Our farmers have been suffering because of using low yielding variety and application of excess pesticide. That is now a thing of the past,” the PS said.
Mr Wamalwa said the government would support cooperative societies to benefit from the ambitious plans aimed at revitalising the cotton industry.