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State distributes hybrid coconut tree seedlings to farmers

Coast
 Farmer Salim Kalu harvesting coconuts in his farm at Mkaomoto village in Msabaha, Malindi. [File, Standard]

The government has started the distribution of fast-maturing hybrid coconut tree seedlings to farmers at the Coast.

Through the partnership with the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), the government seeks to distribute 43,000 coconut seedlings to farmers in Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Lamu, Taita Taveta, and Mombasa counties.

Speaking during the opening of the National Coconut Week in Kilifi county, Agriculture Secretary Mithika Linturi said the move was a response to the reduced coconut tree population.

Linturi revealed that the government seeks to expand coconut production in efforts to reduce edible oil imports.

Last year, Kenya imported 73.91 tonnes of coconut oil valued at Sh80.71 million, an increase of 82 tonnes valued at Sh91.5 million imported in 2021.

"Kenya uses Sh120 billion every year to import nut oil. The country would cut its oil imports and save billions annually if it increases coconut oil production,” he said.

The CS announced that the government allocated Sh200 million under the commodities fund for coconut and cashew nut farmers to borrow at an interest rate of three percent.

Linturi also launched the distribution of 15 metric tons of sunflower seeds to farmers to promote edible oil crop production.

The State also plans to bring in pressing machines for sunflower farmers to aid in harvesting the produce, he said.

"This initiative is also to help diversify farmers’ income through the cultivation of cash crops, not only to propel national economic growth but also improve economic development in rural communities,” he said.

Linturi urged farmers to register themselves and form cooperatives to receive agriculture loans from the government.

He appealed to farmers to purchase subsidised fertiliser, saying that only 4,000 bags had been sold in Kilifi.

Kilifi North MP Owen Baya said he will petition the government to compensate coconut farmers for the losses incurred during drought and the destruction of the trees by pests.

Baya promised to introduce a Bill with the aim of creating Coconut and Cashew nut Act and form a Parliamentary Coconut Caucus.

"Mnazi is not illicit brew. It's wine, and it's an agricultural product. We will get a standard seal for coconut wine from the Kenya Bureau of Standards, package and sell it across the country,” he said.

He urged farmers to plant the coconut seedlings during the dry season, to sustain their growth.

"''Every farmer should plant at least 100 coconut seedlings in this planting season," he said.

Currently, coconut farm gate price ranges from Sh10 and Sh50 and retail between Sh30 and Sh120 depending on the market location.

In Kilifi, the Chief Officer of Agriculture, Teddy Yawa, said that in 2023 the county set aside Sh10 million to buy and distribute coconut seedlings to farmers.

"This year, we have allocated Sh12 million to purchase seedlings and distribute them to farmers to boost coconut production and enhance the living standards of the locals," said Yawa.

In Kwale, the County Executive Member for Agriculture Roman Shera said the county distributes 6,000 coconut seedlings to farmers every year.

More than 100,000 households at the Coast depend on coconut farming.

The overall objective of Coconut Week is to create awareness of the coconut tree, its products, and benefits while providing a platform for learning and sharing ideas on how to revamp the sub-sector by stimulating demand for the products.

Research also shows that coconut diseases at the Coast have been rampant due to rising temperatures.

Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate (NOCD) says the crop produces more than 100 byproducts with the potential to generate over Sh13 billion annually, which represents 0.4 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Currently, the crop's main product is wine, locally known as mnazi, which NOCD says constitutes 60 per cent, nuts 24 per cent, fronds 12 per cent, while brooms and coco wood constitute 24 and 0.3 percent respectively.

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