Cotton farmers in Kerio Valley have struck a deal with Rift Valley Textiles (Rivatex) that will see them sell their produce to the manufacturer.
The farmers have suffered unending marketing woes hat have forced many to abandon the crop, citing exploitation from middlemen who buy their produce at measly prices.
According to the memorandum of understanding, Rivatex will provide certified cotton seeds and pesticides to the farmers and purchase the produce upon harvest.
Peter Barngetuny, the Kerio Valley Cotton Producers’ chairman, said although the crop thrived in the region, many farmers had abandoned it due to lack of market and persistent pests and diseases.
“We have suffered in the hands of middlemen, who buy our produce at throw-away prices. This deal will encourage more farmers to try cotton,” he said.
Speaking during the deal signing ceremony on Friday, Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Governor Wisley Rotich said the partnership was a big win for cotton farming in the county.
"We are planning to engage more than 1,000 farmers along the Kerio Valley belt, which is one of the best cotton producing zones in the region," he said.
The deputy governor said farmers would reap more because Rivatex would supply them with disease resistant higher yielding seeds.
Some 300 farmers living in Kerio Valley grow cotton currently. The county projects that more than 2,000 acres will be put under cotton this year in Soy North, Soy South, Tambach, Emsoo, Arror, Endo and Sambirir wards.
Rivatex Managing Director Thomas Kipkurgat said the company would partner with Elgeyo Marakwet County to increase supply of raw materials.
“We are currently producing an average of 10,000 bales against a capacity of 70,000 annually. We are tapping Elgeyo Marakwet, which has the potential to produce more cotton,” said Prof Kipkurgat.
The Ministry of Industry says cotton production has remained below the national demand due to unstable international prices and high cost of production.
Industrialisation PS Betty Maina commended the deal, saying efforts would be made to ensure farmers got value for money.
“The over-reliance on maize has made our farmers poor. With more incentives like this to our farmers, the economic benefits to the local community will increase," said the PS.
She said the ministry was targeting to put more than 50,000 acres in Elgeyo Marakwet under cotton.
"We import cotton from neighbouring countries. With the current arrangement we can beat the deficit," she said.
Her Transport counterpart Esther Koimett asked farmers to diversify farming and utilise the opportunities offered by Rivatex.