AGRIBUSINESS: Cotton sector revival starts in Homa Bay

Cotton crop. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Cotton farmers in Homa Bay have begun a journey towards reviving cotton production.

They have acquired a piece of land to build a modern warehouse and farmers union office.

Operating as Homa Bay Cotton Cooperative Union, the farmers acquired a piece of land in Magare village at a cost of Ksh 700,000.

A new cotton aggregation centre will be established there.

Union chairman John Akoko said the 1.5 acre piece is enough for a modern cotton store and union offices where coordination of farming activities will be done from.

Cotton farmers in the county are some of the disadvantaged groups in the agriculture sector with government support towards their activities always being limited.

Most farmers who grew the crop in the 1990s left the venture after the collapse of private cotton ginneries which was their main market.

Today, most of the farmers, in Rachuonyo North, Mbita and Homa Bay Sub-counties are engaged in maize and sorghum production.

But the revival of industries like Rivatex is slowly driving back some farmers towards cotton production.

Last year, more than 400 tonnes of cotton were harvested, according to Homa Bay Agriculture Executive Aguko Juma, with more expected to be produced after the forthcoming planting season.

“National Agriculture and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP) which supports agriculture in Homa Bay has committed funds towards supporting the establishment of a ginnery next to the warehouse. It will be a boost to cotton farmers,” the executive said.

Cotton farmers could not store their crops in the right way when looking for market.

Mr Akoko said that most of the union members who engaged in the venture have been complaining of lack of space to store their harvested crops, and the establishment of the warehouse will be a step towards resuscitation of cotton farming.

“Those who have space risk supplying low quality cotton to the ginnery because some of the stores they use are not built for keeping cotton.

We hope the new warehouse will solve the storage problem,” he said.

Cotton farmers in the county have formed at least 10 cooperative societies with each society having a general store where members keep their produce before being sold.

Mr Akoko said that most of the stores where the crop is kept do not have proper ventilation which affects cotton quality.

“Cotton seeds are used to make manure, cooking oil, soap, animal feeds and other products. If stored in poor conditions, the quality of the final product will be compromised. We therefore advocate for farmers to have good storage space,” he said.

The warehouse that will be built in Magare will have space to store more than 3000 tonnes of cotton with farmers saying its design has proper ventilation system that will preserve the quality of the crops.

Besides promoting quality, the new warehouse will cut post production cost in cotton.

Each of the ten societies pays at least Ksh 3,000 every month when hiring stores.

Mr Akoko said the money should support farmers.

“The new warehouse whose construction will start as soon as we are through with land transfer issues will have space for keeping other crops as well.

We may use it to help other farmers and find a way of generating income for the operations of the building,” he said.

Union secretary Richard Apiyo and treasurer Michael Otieno appealed for support from the government to revive cotton farming in Homa Bay.

Mr Otieno said setting up a ginnery in the county would encourage more faremers to engage in the practice.

“We currently take all our produce to Baringo. It is very expensive and some farmers lose their produce to middlemen. This has delayed payment of some farmers.

“My office is however looking into some of these challenges to see how best we can address them,” he said.

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