Elgeyo Marakwet County government push for cotton revival in Kerio Valley

H.E Wisley Rotich (second right) during a tour at the Rivatex textile industry in Eldoret, Kenya.

The Elgeyo Marakwet County government is pushing for more farmers in cotton-growing areas in the Kerio Valley to venture into growing the crop, in a fresh bid to increase its production and enhance diversification.

Deputy Governor Wisely Rotich said the county in collaboration with Eldoret based textile miller Rivatex will be engaging farmers through cooperatives in the County to encourage them grow the crop following identification of a ready market.

Cotton farming in the region had been abandoned due to market uncertainties forcing farmers to shift to more lucrative ventures like horticulture.

According to Mr Rotich, in the arrangement, cotton farmers will be provided with certified seeds, pesticides and also training.

Rivatex will also provide market for the cotton which will be a reprieve to the farmers who abandoned the crop due to poor prices.

Ali Kiplagat a farmer from Chegilet in Keiyo North Sub County said he stopped growing the crop when prices drooped to a low of Sh10 a kilo.

“I used to grow cotton but stopped when the prices dropped. We used to take our produce to Salawa ginnery in Baringo but they never paid us,” said Mr Kiplagat who added that he was ready to venture in its production again if he is assured of ready market.

Rivatex manufactures different textile products from cotton and cotton blend fibres. The Moi University owned cotton miller’s Managing Director Prof Thomas Kipkurgat lauded the partnership adding that the company will partner with Elgeyo Marakwet County to increase supply of raw materials for maximum operations.

“We are currently producing an average of 10,000 bales against a capacity of 70,000 annually. We are tapping Elgeyo Marakwet which has the potential to produce more cotton,” said Prof Kipkurgat,

He said:” In about two weeks, we will be signing a memorandum of understanding

Farmers from Soy South, Soy North, Tambach and Emsoo Wards will be targeted in the program. Other Wards are Endo, Sambirir and Arror,”

Mr Rotich however said Cotton growing do well in Kerio Valley but farmers abandoned growing it in the recent past due to lack of market and persistent pest and diseases attack.

The Deputy Governor said: “This will now change because farmers will be supplied with pesticides and seeds which are of higher yield production and disease resistant.”

According to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives cotton production has remained below the national demand due to unstable international prices and high cost of production.

Currently, the country produces an average of 25,000 bales against a demand of 200,000 bales, with the deficit covered through imports from neighbouring countries of Uganda and Tanzania and from the Far East.