Rivatex to buy cotton from farmers in Busia

Cotton farmers from Busia county are a happy lot after they secured a deal to sell their produce to the Rift Valley Textiles (Rivatex).

The farmers have been experiencing challenges including lack of ready market, lack of quality and certified seeds, high cost of farm inputs and exploitation by middlemen.

The deal was brokered by Busia county government and the Agricultural Food Authority (AFA).

The county and AFA promised to revamp cotton farming in the area in a bid to boost livelihoods.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) entered into by the parties stipulates that Rivatex will provide certified cotton seeds and fertiliser to farmers and purchase the produce.

Farmers representatives led by the Mulwanda Ginnery Chairman Christian Small said the deal signifies a new dawn for farmers who have suffered for many years despite the region being the best in cotton growing.

“We (farmers) are very happy because we now have the support of the county and national governments, we are going to sensitise our members to grow more cotton so that we can double the production to meet the market demand,” said Small.

“We shall get seeds, fertiliser, pesticides and a ready market where we are going to sell our produce at good price and therefore all we need to do is increase acreage under the crop and have more farmers join cooperatives," said the chairman.

Rivatex Managing Director Thomas Kipkurgat said they are ready to buy cotton directly from farmers after the national government released 60,000 tonnes of seeds which are already with Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro).

Kipkurgat assured that the government has released quality seeds that will enable farmers to produce at least 1,000 kilograms of cotton per acre.

“The biggest challenge we have is availability of seeds, however, our president has given out seeds through Kalro, we have one supplier from India who is selling a kilo of the seeds at Sh3,200 and when we leave it to farmers they cannot manage and that is why we want Kalro to do seed multiplication and as Rivatex, we have given out 1,000 acres for Kalro to do seed multiplication in Baringo,” he said.

“We want to focus on seed multiplication so that we can have seeds at a cheaper price and increase production, we want farmers to take advantage of the fertilizer we have supplied to get maximum produce per acre," he added.

He announced that Rivatex will buy a kilogram of cotton seed at Sh275 per Kilo after undergoing some processing.

“For us as Rivatex, we are going to use splits in our factory and offer Sh275 per kilo but the cooperative bank will buy a kilo of cotton seed from a farmer at Sh75," he said.

The Rivatex Managing Director explained that Kalro has to do seed multiplication of 60,000 tonnes of seedlings so that they can be able to supply to farmers in 24 counties.

He said they were targeting at least 36,000 tonnes of cotton from Busia county.

Governor Paul Otuoma urged the farmers to take advantage of the MoU to grow more cotton saying the county targets to cultivate 40,000 acres of cotton besides setting up and registering 35 cooperatives.

“We had a plan to cultivate 11,000 acres but we managed to cover 4,000 acres, we plan to cover 40,000 acres of cotton in Busia,” he said.

Dr Otuoma said the county has hired 600 graduates from agricultural colleges, universities, and Technical and Vocational Education and Training institutes to educate and sensitize farmers.

“We have employed 10 agricultural extension officers in each ward besides agricultural trainees to educate farmers on the venture so that our farmers can grow enough cotton to increase our production,” he said.

The governor noted that the cotton industry in Busia has the potential to create 1,000 jobs and generate Sh12 billion per year.

Presidential Food Security Advisor Dominic Menjo said they aim to revive the sector by having three mentors who will be identified from the agriculture, trade, and cooperatives sectors and their role will be to ensure that cooperatives and Saccos work accordingly.

“With this model, we are going to focus on cooperatives and Saccos in every ward where cotton farmers will be recruited and assisted with required materials and funds. The extension structures and Agri-data systems will provide information on all activities on production and marketing,” said Menjo.

He revealed that the government has already identified 11 cooperatives in Busia that will train cotton farmers.

AFA disclosed that it targets to put 100,000 acres of land under cotton in the 24 counties that grow cotton to increase production.

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