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Government to revive pyrethrum industry

Government to revive pyrethrum industry


Thursday March 28, 2024

KNA by Emily Kadzo/Joel Angode

The Government is working with pyrethrum growing counties to reverse fortunes of the once multi billion industry.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithuka Linturi announced that the government is distributing 1.8 billion pyrethrum seedlings to farmers across the country towards revival of the sector which used to offer livelihood to 200,000 small scale growers before the industry started sinking due to poor management.

Speaking in the Elburgon area of Molo Subcounty in Nakuru Linturi outlined the government’s ambitious goal to reclaim 70 per cent of the global pyrethrum market.

The Cabinet Secretary further announced that the government was exploring alternative uses of macadamia nuts to boost the earnings of farmers at a time prices of the nut have plummeted due to oversupply.

He said the addition of macadamia as an edible oil-producing crop under the National Edible Oil Crops Project would provide a much-needed cushion for farmers hard hit by the global glut that has seen prices of the commodity drop.

The other oil-producing crops in the project are sunflower, canola and soybeans.

Overproduction of macadamia globally has adversely affected farmers in the country with some in Central Kenya uprooting the trees to replace them with more economically viable crops.

Mr Linturi said increased domestic consumption of macadamia nuts in various value-added forms will help provide relief to the global glut challenge and boost incomes for farmers.

While indicating that the State was deliberate in promoting the growth of the pyrethrum sub sector, the cabinet secretary indicated that when Kenya used to dominate 75 percent of the cash crop’s global market share, Forex earnings were very high.

“There is no other best pesticide than that which is produced from pyrethrum,” stated the CS.

Linturi who was accompanied by ministry of Agriculture PS, Paul Rono, Nakuru Deputy Governor Mr David Kones, MPs Kuria Kimani (Molo), Charity Kathambi (Njoro) and Joseph Tonui (Kuresoi South) addressed the issue of counterfeit seeds affecting the industry. “The government is committed to combating the sale of substandard seeds by unscrupulous businessmen,” he said.

The Cabinet Secretary indicated that the State through the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) has started a countrywide crackdown to weed out agrovet dealers who sell fake seeds and fertilizer to unsuspecting farmers in a new move by the government to get rid of unscrupulous traders in the market.

He regretted that the vice is on the rise, warning that perpetrators caught up in this crackdown will be subjected to a Sh1 million fine or a jail term of up to two years.

The CS said those dealing with the illegal practice of selling fake fertilizer and fake seeds are enemies of the economy and should be rotting in jail.

He revealed that Kephis has so far arrested 65 suspects, some of whom have been convicted and slapped with fines.

The CS said over eighteen tonnes of counterfeit seeds have also been intercepted during the ongoing crackdown in parts of the country.

“We have the backing of the highest office in the land to ensure the materials farmers are getting are certified by the requisite agencies, we are warning the perpetrators of this vice that they will face the full force of the law,” Linturi warned.

He confirmed that Kephis jointly with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) laid a trap on March 18 and arrested a suspected key fake seeds dealer, one Stephen Kiragu in Njoro, Nakuru county.

He assured farmers that the government was supplying quality subsidized fertilizer.

The Cabinet Secretary dismissed claims by a section of opposition leaders that the imported fertilizer for subsidy was mixed with impurities and accused them of frustrating the government’s development agenda.

Linturi said the subsidized fertilizer was scientifically tested and approved before importation to ensure that farmers got quality farm input for enhanced crop production.

“The team from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock joined me on a fact-finding mission in all the National Cereals and Produce Board stores in Olenguruone, Sirikwa and Elburgon to check whether there was sufficient subsidized fertilizer and its quality,” he said.

Linturi said the government had listed 6.4 million farmers to benefit from subsidized fertilizer which is being sold at Sh2,500 per 50kg bag instead of Sh6500 from agrovet stores.

“The farmers were listed, complete with what they grow to inform the government on what types of fertilizers to import and for what crops,” the CS said.

He said last year’s harvest of more than 60 million bags of maize in the country was proof that the subsidized fertilizer was up to the required standards.

“This is planting season, farmers should come and collect the inputs which include seeds, this will help the government in ensuring food and nutrition security,” he said.

Linturi told farmers that the government was buying maize at Sh4,000 per 90kg bag.

“Do not sell your maize through brokers, the government is buying at good prices and paying for the produce within 72 hours after delivery,” he said.

Linturi added that the government was also supporting coffee, avocado and tea value chains with the aim of increasing forex.

He affirmed that pyrethrum farming is slowly making a comeback in Kenya as county governments take initiatives to promote the crop that was once a major foreign exchange earner.

According to the Cabinet Secretary, over the past six years, production of the cash crop has grown five times its value and its price up by two-thirds, re-fueling hope of farmers who had forsaken the crop about two decades ago that they could yet again earn from it.

Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) data shows that between 2018 and 2022, while land under pyrethrum farming dropped from more than 6,000 acres to 4,000 acres, the price of the flowers delivered by farmers at factories increased from Sh151.9 per kilogramme to Sh250 for the same quantity following a steady increase.

“In the period under review (2022), the total acreage under the crop was 4,000 acres, an increase of 223 acres from 3,777 acres recorded in 2021. The increase in acreage was as a result of government support in the purchase and distribution of seedling programme in the pyrethrum growing counties as well as favourable climatic conditions,” AFA notes in its 2023 yearbook of statistics.

Linturi pointed out that the national government, counties and development partners have been on a drive to revive farming of the cash crop that is mainly used for the production of pesticides, which has served to bring back to farms thousands of growers who had given up on the crop.

Nakuru, Nyandarua and West Pokot counties lead in the farming of pyrethrum, with more than two-thirds of the land under the cash crop in the country being in the three counties.

“Nakuru county had the largest percentage of area under pyrethrum at 29.9 percent followed by Nyandarua and West Pokot at 19.6 and 17.7 percent respectively,” AFA noted.

In total, pyrethrum farming is practiced across 18 counties. Between 2018 and 2022, farmers delivered 2.2 million kilograms of pyrethrum dry flowers, valued at Sh496 million.

Two-thirds of the flowers valued at 69 percent of the Sh496 million were, however, delivered in 2021 and 2022 alone. This shows the growing value of the crop, which has seen dry flower prices increase by two-thirds over the period.

“Pyrethrum dry flowers delivered increased by 88.2 percent from 500,564 Kgs in 2021 to 941,872 Kgs in 2022 attributed to planting material distribution efforts by the county governments, processors, individual propagators, interfarm and other industry stakeholders,” the AFA report says.

“The value of dry flowers increased from Sh106.7 million in 2021 to Sh235.4 million in 2022 attributed to an increase in average farmgate prices from Sh213/kg to Sh250/kg.”

Courtesy; KNA

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