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Targeted assistance can revive cotton industry

By -Editorial | January 6th 2014


It is hard to believe Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Felix Kosgei when he credits the Government for playing a key role in reviving the cotton industry over the past 11 years. This is because of the country’s eight cotton ginneries, those operating in Meru, Kirinyaga, Kitui and Makueni are owned by private individuals who from the very beginning have worked with other private sector players without State aid.

The minister’s assurance that the Government has got development partners to offer both financial and technical assistance to the cotton sector is, however, laudable.

It is notable that the amount involved is rather minuscule – Sh70 million – and one cannot help but wonder why the Government waited for so long for foreign assistance when it could so easily have found what amounts to no more than petty cash.

The technical assistance could prove more beneficial, however, provided it is put to proper use. The offer from the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), an autonomous inter-governmental financial institution, to finance the standardisation and classification of cotton, could prove particularly pivotal in turning around the fortunes of local cotton farmers.

The Cotton Development Authority’s (Coda’s) decision to partner with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari), Kenya Seed Company and National Irrigation Board (Nib) for the purposes of cotton seed bulking should enhance research, seed production and technology upgrading along the entire value chain.

Yet, despite all these initiatives, the challenge for the industry is going to remain the market and the prices paid to farmers for their produce.

This means Coda should step up consultations with other Government bodies to ensure that there is a ready market for the cotton once it is harvested. Otherwise, all these initiatives, no matter how well meaning, will amount to nothing.


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