Kenya wants to have a bigger share of the global cotton market. So attention is being given to support farmers, better cotton varieties, transparent pricing and irrigation projects. The country has a potential area of 3,84,500 hectares that can be put under cotton using both rain-fed and irrigation methods. The production potential from these hectares is 3,68,000 bales of lint cotton per year.
The current production is at 572 kg per hectare compared to the world’s average of 726 kg per hectare. About 40,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya depend on cotton crop for a living.
High input costs are making Kenya’s cotton uncompetitive in international markets. The cotton value chain flows from production, ginning, spinning, weaving and garment-making. But at the moment garment manufacturers are allowed by law to import raw and intermediate materials from other countries and carry out final processing.
With seven operational factories in the country, their machines are just utilised up to 50 per cent with 80 per cent of the raw material imported. This would change through a policy shift where cotton would only be grown in Kenya so that locals benefit in the entire value chain. This will be done through checking the cost of production and increasing efficiencies at all parts of the value chain.