We must not lose the ‘Cotton Opportunity’
A big opportunity has been brought forward by the new improved Bt cotton seed. This is the second chance that cotton is giving Kenya, after the collapse of the industry in the early 1990s.
We call it a chance by cotton to Kenya because the crop’s wealth multiplier potential is so huge, in terms of employment creation. Fact is that in the 1970s, the cotton industry was the second biggest employer in Kenya after the civil service.
A profile of the top cotton producers in the world gives you an indication of the lucrativeness of the crop. Top among them include the United States, China, India, Brazil, and Australia.
Why? Because demand for cotton across the world is ever increasing. Cotton is not only one of the most widely used fabric but is the most preferred. Its qualities qualify it to be used for fabrics to be worn in comfortably in different climatic conditions.
With a growing population across the world, demand for clothes is ever increasing. This offers the first line of the market for cotton. This reality is playing in Kenya today because the country earned Sh40 billion from exports of clothes to the United States last year.
If we compare with proceeds from tea, the highest export earner at Sh130 billion, then we can see the potential of the cotton industry, especially when the raw material is sourced locally. It will definitely top the charts in terms of foreign income.
Cotton offers many opportunities for this country. In addition to what has already been mentioned, it will play a very important role in putting underutilized land into positive use. One of the reasons for the underutilization of land is the scarcity of water resource as rain or for irrigation.
Cotton thankfully does not require a lot of water to grow and therefore presents an opportunity for farmers in dry areas to have a cash crop. It will widen the variety of cash crops in Kenya and therefore offer a stabilizing factor especially now that we have started experiencing volatility in the pricing of other cash crops like tea and coffee, which also extends of dairy farming.
We, therefore, call on all our leaders, in private and public sector, to embrace and encourage their people on the idea of cotton farming. We should aim to first become number one producer of cotton in Africa, and then a respected global player, just as we have achieved those positions in the production of avocado.
We call on the two tiers of governments to ensure we have friendly and sustainable policies on cotton farming and processing so that investors can make long term commitments in the industry. We call on the private sector to import the latest cotton processing technologies in order to make the sector more efficient and profitable.
This is an opportunity that Kenya cannot afford to miss. It is an opportunity to flow new money into rural areas. It is an opportunity to capture the reluctant youth population into farming. It is an opportunity to create rural-based cottage industries that are export-ready. It is an opportunity to diversify our exports. It is indeed, a big opportunity.