Bad policies governing the cotton sector in Kenya have been attributed to be the main cause that led to the collapse of the sector in Kenya.

According to the cotton farmers’ policies such as poor pricing, lack of independence as a sector from the Agriculture and Foods Authority (AFA), and infiltration of cartels in the sector among other reasons have been cited as the reasons many farmers in the Western region abandoned the crop.

Speaking before the committee of agriculture, livestock and blue economy during public participation in Busia County cotton farmers noted that a kilo of cotton trading at Sh52 is demoralizing.

According to Mr Wycliffe Opili from Malaba-Malakisi Ginnery, a lot of cotton is smuggled to Uganda due to better price trading at Sh100 a kilo.

“As long as cotton prices in Kenya are still at sh52 a kilo, few people will venture into farming and the few doing farming some, due to better cotton prices in Uganda trading at sh100 a kilo many farmers smuggle their cotton to Uganda,” he said

Mr James Riaga, a cotton farmer from Kisumu called upon the committee to make sure that as they work on the bill, cotton as a crop should be independent they way tea and coffee boards.

“It is unfortunate that cotton is still being grouped together with other crops such as maize and vegetables under the Agricultural and Food Authority (AFA). Let cotton farming have its own board the way tea and coffee are so that the board can make its own decision and budget,” said Mr Riaga

Ms Mary Odemba from the Nambale farmers cooperative union called upon the committee in the bill to allow not to limit the number of farmers who wish to venture into cotton farming.

“As you work on the bill, don’t put a limit on the number of farmers. Let it be open to any individual who wishes to venture into cotton. That is the only way we will increase cotton production in Kenya,” she noted

The committee led by Kirinyaga senator Mr Kamau Murango it will factor in all the proposals raised by farmers before they pass the bill into law.

Cotton Bill

According to Ms Beth Syengo nominated senator and the mover of the bill, the bill aims to revive cotton farming in Kenya.

She noted that cotton should be removed from AFA, like coffee and tea.

“Management and regulation of cotton in Kenya was damaged by AFA and  through the bill we will develop the cotton board of Kenya and through the board, farmers will be able to raise their issues the same way coffee and tea farmers do through their boards,” she explained

Her sentiments were echoed by Busia senator Mr Okiya Omtata adding that allowing AFA to continue running cotton affairs is mixing farmers.

According to him, the challenges facing cotton farming in Kenya were caused by the Agriculture Foods Authority (AFA).

“This bill aims to let cotton be handled independently from AFA. Allowing the authority to make decisions on behalf of cotton farmers the way it is doing nothing new will come out of the sector.” He noted

Omtata further noted that the bill will have room to enable researchers from Kenya to develop seeds that are readily available to the farmers when they require them at affordable prices.

“The bill also proposes that the government to allow researchers develop cotton seeds locally instead of importing them. Importing cotton seeds is expensive and makes it difficult for farmers to access the seeds at the right time.”

Kirinyaga senator Mr Kamau Murango noted that once the bill is signed into law Busia County will be among the first counties to effect the law since there are structures in place to implement the law.

“It is good to hear that there are existing societies here. We already have structures in place easy to effect the law once in place.” He said

He added, “We must do away with cartels in the cotton sector and agriculture as a whole. With the bill into the law, farmers will access the market directly and that will also address the issue of the low market price of cotton in Kenya.”

Cotton industry development Board

The cotton industry development bill, 2023 proposes that there is established a board to be known as the cotton industry development Board.

The board shall have powers to enter into contracts, manage, control and administer the assets of the board, and receive gifts, grants, donations or endowments made to the board among other roles.

As a move to lock out the cartels in the sector, the bill proposes that a person or entity shall not carry out the business of cotton grower, cotton ginner, cotton cooperative 

society or cotton association unless such person is registered by the respective county government in which the business is to be undertaken.

“A person shall not engage in the manufacture or processing of cotton products unless such person has applied for, and obtained, a licence in accordance with this act.”

Section 26 of the bill proposes that the county executive committee member may refuse to grant a licence where the application does not comply with the requirements imposed under the act or prescribed under the specific county legislation.

Busia county government was represented by CEC member Department of Agriculture Mr Symplicius Mukok

Other presents were Embu senator Mr Alexander Mwinya, Makueni senator Mr Daniel Maanzu and Bungoma senator Mr Wafula Wakoli.

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