Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) has established the first-ever certified cotton seed system in the country, a major milestone in Kenya’s textile industry.

This is aimed at increasing yields and boosting the textile value chains across the country, which has suffered a serious shortage of cotton for processing, forcing ginneries to rely on imports.

“Kalro has already branded cotton seed that is certified and soon will be able to provide farmers with seed,” Teresia Okiyo, a plant breeder and in charge of the cotton research programme at Kalro Kibos centre said.

“This project is going to set an entire seed system for us, the first one in the country after more than a hundred years of cotton introduction in Kenya,” said the breeder.

Ms Okiyo said that in 2017, the Kenyan government through the Kalro fibre crops directorate in collaboration with the Brazilian corporation agency together with Tanzania and Burundi, collaborated in a project dubbed “Cotton Victoria” that was aimed at scaling up textile production in the region.

“Through this project, they were able to do a feasibility study on varieties such as KSA 81M and Hart 89M which were suitable for ecological zones in Western and Eastern regions respectively.

This year, Kalro has planted 14 acres of seed at Kibos and 20 in Mwea that will be used in the production of certified generation 1 seed.

The breeder said the seeds they have planted at their research centres will be multiplied together with those from a few farmers that have been contracted.

Initially, farmers used to get seeds that were not certified, directly from the ginnery for planting as there was no proper seed system for the production of clean material.

The government recently delivered 17 tonnes of genetically modified cotton seeds to Busia County to boost cotton production and revive the textile sector, a once booming enterprise in the region.

The government has put up a new ginnery in Mulwanda area in Busia with a huge capacity to absorb all the cotton being produced in this region.

farmers at a cotton plantation in Busia. (Photo (BDA).
Farmers at a cotton plantation in Busia. Photo (BDA).

The State has set a minimum price of Ksh55 for a kilo of cotton with a likelihood of increasing the buying price.

Dennis Mapesa, a cotton farmer from Nambale Sub-County said he stopped growing cotton because of brokers who offered them lower prices initially.

“I have picked it up again after the government came with the goodies and the support in terms of prices that we are getting from the Ministry of Agriculture,” he said.

Mr Mapesa thanked the national government for the Bottom Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) plan that has resurrected the cotton industry and that the recently launched industrial park is the icing on the cake for them.

“I want to thank the president and the ministry of agriculture for all they have done to ensure that they resurrect cotton farming in Busia county and for setting the current market price for the cotton which has seen some of us earn up to Ksh200,000 from one acre”, said Mr Mapesa.