The Nakuru County government is set to inject Sh 24 million for research and development of disease resistant and high yielding pyrethrum seed varieties.
County Executive Committee (CEC) Member for Agriculture, Dr Immaculate Maina said part of the funds will be channeled into subsidising agriculture activities in the sub sector and procurement of farm inputs and planting materials to growers of the cash crop within the devolved unit.
The funds will also facilitate transfer of technical expertise to pyrethrum farmers.
“Last year we set aside Sh 10 million for the same purpose. We have increased the amount after studies confirmed that ongoing efforts to revive the pyrethrum sub sector have started paying off with increased production over the past few months,” noted Dr Maina.
Speaking at Eburru in Gilgil Sub County during a field day for growers of the cash crop organised by an American biotechnology company, Kentegra, the CEC said partnerships between the devolved unit and six private pyrethrum processing companies had put the crop under 1500 hectares.
She noted that the national government’s contribution towards reviving the sector through allocations of billions of shillings, setting up of legal frameworks and forming a task force for separation of functions had resulted in more farmers across the country embracing the crop.
Dr Maina stated that 3,000 farmers were planting the crop in the county from the previously less than 250 three years ago.
“Pyrethrum is now a liberalised crop. We are having discussions with some partners who will support the farmers through provision of inputs and also sign market agreements with our growers. Kentegra has contracted 2,200 farmers in Kenya,” affirmed Dr. Maina.
Dr Maina said Nakuru County will continue engaging top officials from other pyrethrum growing areas towards formation of a bloc.
The pyrethrum-growing counties that are seeking to form the bloc are Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kiambu, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kisii and West Pokot.
Others are Nandi, Baringo, Laikipia, Narok, Kericho, Bomet, Nyamira, Bungoma, Muranga, Kirinyaga and Meru.
Dr Maina suggested that once the block is operational, it will turn around the fortunes of the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK) factory in Nakuru which is struggling to pay debts owed to contractors, farmers and other organisations amounting to millions of shillings.
The factory, which is the biggest in Africa, has the capacity to crush 25 tonnes of flowers per day and also boasts of a 600-tonne holding tank.
Kentegra’s Chief Operating Officer Scott Sweat said production of the cash crop was promising and that the company will continue to offer more support to farmers
The company started its Kenyan operations after signing a Sh400 million investment deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta during his tour of the US last August.
“We are constructing a laboratory in Nairobi which will be of great benefit to farmers. The current flat rate of Sh200 per kilogram will increase as we continue to produce higher quality produce. We want to start paying farmers based on the quality of flowers they deliver,” said Mr Sweat.
He said that though the firm was supplying growers with the P4 seed variety, it was working on a prototype that will be high yielding and disease resistant. The company stated Scott, has employed agronomists, field officers and agricultural extension officers to work with its contracted farmers.
Kentegra has contracted farmers in Eburru, Molo and Kuresoi in Nakuru County, majority of whom are small holder farmers.
Mary Wambui, a farmer from Eburru said though growers welcomed private sector players, it was prudent for both the state and county governments to ensure that the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK) did not go under.
Wambui noted that prompt payments of dry flower deliveries were motivating more farmers to revert to pyrethrum growing.
“PPCK should be salvaged from its current woes. This private manufacturers can be made to pay a fee to have their pyrethrum extracted and analysed at the company’s modern factory in Nakuru. It is a facility that all pyrethrum farmers should regard with seriousness,” she stated.
By Anne Mwale