The Elgeyo Marakwet County has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Rivatex in a bid to improve cotton production in Kerio Valley.
In the arrangement, Rivatex will provide certified seeds and pesticides to cotton farmers in the county. The miller will provide market for the produce.
Speaking during the ceremony, Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Governor Wisley Rotich welcomed the partnership terming it a breakthrough in cotton farming in the county.
He said: "We are planning to engage more than 1000 farmers along the Kerio Valley which is one of the best cotton producing zones in the region. The farmers had stopped cultivating the crop owing to poor prices."
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.”
Currently, at least 300 farmers along Kerio Valley are growing cotton. More than 2000 acres is targeted to be put under cotton this year in Soy North, Soy South, Tambach, Emsoo,Arror, Endo and Sambirir Wards, he said.
Industrialisation Principal Secretary Betty Maina who commended the County's efforts being put by the county to ensure that farmers get value for their money.
"I am encouraged that Elgeyo Marakwet has embraced diversification.The over reliance of maize has made our farmers poor. I am happy to see that Elgeyo Marakwet is one of the fastest growing counties in the country and with more incentives like this to our farmers, the economy of the local community will increase," said the PS who referred to the recent survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics which identified Elgeyo Marakwet as one of the fastest growing counties in the country.
She said ministry is targeting more than 50,000 acres in the County to be put under cotton.
"We import cotton from our neighbouring countries and with the current arrangement we can beat the deficit" she said.
Transport Principal Secretary Esther Koimett who asked farmers to diversify from maize and asked farmers to utilise the opportunity offered by Rivatex.
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,
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.
Present during were cotton farmers representatives led by Mr Barngetuny Barchok who said poor and inconsistent prices forced them to drop growing cotton.
Indian High Commissioner to Kenya H.E Mr Rahul Chhabra who praised the efforts taken by the County Government to introduce farmers to contract farming as a way of ensuring them of a ready market for their produce.
Also present was Agriculture CEC member Ann Kibosia and other county staff from the Agriculture Department and representatives from Moi University.