US pledges Sh3 billion to support Kenya's pyrethrum sector revival

Nakuru governor Susan Kihika and US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman plant trees during the groundbreaking ceremony to construct Kentegra pyrethrum processing plant in Naivasha on Monday, July 10, 2023. The US government will fund the project to the tune of Sh1.4 billion. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

The US government has pledged Sh3 billion to support the revival of pyrethrum farming in Kenya.

At least Sh1.4 billion of the amount will go towards the construction of a modern pyrethrum processing plant in Naivasha, according to the US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman.

Kentegra processing plant, whose groundbreaking ceremony was held in Naivasha on Monday, July 10, 2023, is projected to serve over 90,000 small-scale pyrethrum farmers.

Ms Whitman said her country is keen to help Kenya revive the sector which collapsed in the 90s, thanks to corruption and mismanagement.

“This plant, once complete, will serve over 90,000 small-scale farmers and this is part of the US-Kenya trade partnership,” she said who spoke during the ceremony that was attended by Nakuru governor Susan Kihika and her Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Wisley Rotich. 

Whitman lauded the government's efforts towards supporting investors noting that Kenya would, in the coming years, be the next Singapore.

She said she would rally ten other counties to join in the growing pyrethrum sector in Kenya.

Ms Kihika termed the processing plant as a game changer to hundreds of small-scale pyrethrum farmers.

She said her government is keen to increase land under pyrethrum farming, from 7,000 acres to 10,000 acres, in the next few years.

A pyrethrum farm at Temoyetta village in Kuresoi North, Nakuru County, on November 26, 2021. [File, Standard]

Kihika identified diseases, the rising cost of production, and inadequate seedlings as some of the challenges facing the sector, which her administration is doing all it can to address.

“In the 90s, Kenya accounted for 80 per cent of pyrethrum exported. However, this has reduced to five per cent, and we need to address this,” Kihika said.

Mr Rotich said there is a need to address the high demand for pyrethrum seedlings in the county.

“Pyrethrum is now the cheapest crop to grow, and it has transformed the lives of many people. We shall fully support its revival,” said Rotich.

Kentegra Company CEO Brian Mckenzie said they carried out a survey which proved pyrethrum farming had positively impacted many families.

“Once this plant is complete, it will also create employment for tens of people and offer a ready market for their produce,” he said.

Mr Igals Elfezouaty, the NewVasha EPZ boss who is also the chairman of the special economic zone, said the plant would have a major impact on area residents.

“Kentegra becomes the first company to invest in the new Naivasha EPZ, and this will help in breaking the cycle of unemployment,” he said.

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