Bixa farmers blame rogue brokers over poor prices

Bixa shrubs on a  farm in Kikoneni, Kwale County.  [Gideon Maundu, Standard]

Bixa farmers in Lamu, Kilfi, and Kwale counties have called on the government to hasten its plan to revive the crop value chain and eliminate brokers responsible for the severe decline in the prices of the seeds.

Samuel Waruinge, Secretary General of the Lake Kenyatta Farmers Association, said there was a need for subsidies for bixa farm inputs and to improve the prices to revive the fortunes of bixa farmers.

"The government should proactively develop policies to protect farmers from exploitation. There is a need for sustainable agricultural practices," Mr Waruinge said.

He noted that most farmers in the three counties at the Coast have lost interest in the crop due to the exploitative tendencies of brokers that have led to the drop in the prices of bixa.

Known as “mrangi" at the Coast, bixa is a cash crop introduced at the Coast in the 1970s. It produces seeds that contain bixin, an extract used for colouring cosmetics like lipstick, cheese, salad oil, and margarine.

Currently, a kilogramme of dried bixa seeds at the Coast trades at an average of Sh500 compared to South Africa where it sells at Sh1,013. Farmers say due to the good quality of Kenyan bix seeds, they should trade at Sh1,500 per kilogramme.

Yesterday, farmers, processors, and exporters met in Lamu to discuss the proposed Crops (Bixa) Regulations, 2023. These regulations would establish a comprehensive framework for sustainable growth and development within the bixa industry in Kenya. 

Felix Mutwiri, Director of the Agriculture Food Authority (AFA)-Miraa, Pyrethrum, and Other Industrial Crops Directorate, expressed the national government’s unwavering commitment to revive Bixa farming.

He said the regulations would be transformative for bixa farmers, integrating both indigenous and modern farming practices.

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