The Government will import two tons of certified seeds from Israel for distribution to local small scale cotton farmers during the long rains season in a new strategy to revive the industry.
Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries cabinet secretary, Willy Bett confirmed that government is importing the high yield seeds from Hazera Genetics, a seed-making company in Israel, through Amiran Kenya Limited.
Bett who was speaking at a Nairobi hotel, Thursday, during Africa Cotton Association Congress said that the importation deal is being undertaken with a view to improving local cotton productivity and as well as increase farmers’ income base.
Currently, local production stand at 20,000 bales of lint cotton compared to the highest peak of 70,000 bales produced in 1984.
“These seeds have undergone mandatory tests by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) and are ready for commercialization,” said Bett.
He explained that the yield potential of the seed is 2000 kilogrammes per hectare and therefore a major step in addressing the yield gap and competiveness of value chain.
“Once proved viable and adaptable to local ecological zones, the seeds will be multiplied to enable more farmers access and increase their farming,” the CS said.
The seed importation deal is meant to supplement local initiatives the government is undertaking to produce and commercialize the varieties.
The acting Director of Fibre Crops Directorate, Anthony Mureithi said that the country has KSA 81M and HART 89M commercial varieties available with a potential cotton yield of 2500 hectares under rain fed cottons and 3500- 4000kg/ha under irrigations.
KSA 81Mvariety, he said, is currently grown in Nyanza, Western Kenya and parts of Rift Valley and takes 170 days to mature and is fairly resistant to verticillium wilt and jassids.
“HART 89Mvariety is grown in Central, Eastern Kenya and Coast province and takes 300 days to mature in Central and Eastern and 150 days in the Coast. It is resistant to bacterial wilt and jassids,”Mureithi explained.
He added that as a directorate they are also carrying out trials on hybrids from India, Zimbabwe and the conventional and local varieties to find out the yield potential and fibre quality.
Kenya Seed Company, Fibre Crops Directorate, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KARLO) and National Irrigation Board (NIB) have partnered for seed bulking in local irrigation schemes in the country.
Three new private varieties are now at an advanced stage towards commercialization while KARLO is also developing new varieties that are resistant to mites and thrips to reduce cost of production.
The general manager of Meru Ginnery, David Kihoro, said cotton industry is grappling with numerous challenges of low production, high production cost, high cost of inputs, especially pesticides, for producers and power cost for processors.
According to the CS, government is addressing the challenges, by developing infrastructure for irrigation, capacity building of stakeholders and providing preferences and restrictive schemes and providing preference and restive schemes for textile manufacturers to supply government entities.
Globally, China, together with India, USA, Pakistan, Brazil and Uzbekistan are among the leading country that produces 26 million tons of Cotton making 80 percent of the total production. The rest of the world, Kenya included, produce only 20 percent of the global cotton lint output.