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Coconut industry gradually picks steam

By | March 27th 2012

By Philip Mwakio

The Kenya Coconut Development Authority (KCDA) has benefited from a government allocation of Sh11.25 million which will go towards production and distribution of coconut seedlings to farmers for planting during the long rains season.

The allocation is part of the initial efforts aimed at resuscitating a sector whose full potential has never been exploited.

KCDA Managing Director Dr Francis Fondo says the Authority has already initiated campaigns to sensitise Kenyans on the viability of the wonder coconut tree in the country’s economic growth.

"We have, for instance, built a Sh4.6 million permanent stand at the Mombasa International show ground in efforts geared towards mass education," Dr Fondo says.

Kenya Coconut Development Association is working on developing horticultural gardens built using geo-textile material from natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconuts. [Photo: Kevin Onditi/Standard]

"We hope to upgrade the stand to status of a place where we can hold workshops."

According to Fondo, the drive to kick-start the sector has gained full steam — taking onto a multi-faceted approach.

KCDA is now working on developing horticultural gardens built using geo-textile material from natural fibre extracted from the husk of coconut and used in products such as floor mats, doormats, brushes and mattresses.

National council

To boost its research capabilities into geo-textile material, KCDA has secured Sh7 million grant from the National Council of Science and Technology (NCST).

Another Sh500,000 will help facilitate KCDA to host an international conference to discuss the latest findings in the world of coconut research and best practices.

"The conference, slated for November in Mombasa, will bring together players in the coconut sectors from some of the largest world coconut producing chains and its main thrust will be value addition," Fondo said.

But even as the coconut industry gradually picks steam, KCDA still faces daunting challenges to deliver the much-touted promise to Coast region specifically and the economy as a whole.

Set up by a Presidential Order, KCDA still has to navigate some of the country’s own laws to get the necessary licensing and certification for its products.

For instance, Fondo says the issue of licensing toddy (Palm wine) by National Campaign Against Drug Authority (Nacada) as provided in the 2010 Alcoholics Drinks Act, which previously clash with the KCDA Presidential Order, has since been dealt with.

Consultations between ministries of Agriculture and that of Internal Security and Provincial Administration recommended that KCDA continues license Mnazi retail outlets.

Fondo says both he and his Chairman have also appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Internal Security to explain the nature of toddy (mnazi) and to justify why KCDA should license the drink.

There have also been efforts towards amending the 2010 Alcoholics Drinks Act through initiating communication with Clerk of the National Assembly.

But legislation is not the only challenge coconut KCDA has got to deal with.

A Gazette Notice No 9889 of 2009 sought to enable the State corporation to raise appropriations merely by registration of industry players.

Fondo, however, says the Gazette Notice did not envisage that the amounts collected would be insignificant in terms of enabling the corporation to be financially sustainable.

The size of annual collection of registration fees has over the years been extremely small due to a number of factors including resistance by players to register mainly due to lack resources and years of exploitation by middlemen.

This is especially the case in respect of Mangwe operators (drinking dens) and wine tappers themselves.

The small number of players in some product categories such as those dealing with Makuti, Madafu, Coco wood, and broom business has also limited the revenue collected.

As part of the reforms in the industry and plugging the financial deficit, KCDA is considering introducing development levies on volumes of goods transacted including imports and exports.

"The later two segments will probably be the bread and butter of the KCDA revenue streams. Similar levies exist in the sugar and horticultural sectors,’’ Fondo said.

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