NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 19 – Cabinet has approved the commercial farming of BT cotton hybrids following the successful completion of field trials that were conducted over a period of five years.
This comes a year and a half after President Kenyatta observed that the production of BT cotton would undoubtedly boost the textile industry and create a more sustainable livelihood for cotton farmers.
In a statement, State House says the farming of BT Cotton will ensure farmers earn more from the crop through increased production.
It will also boost the manufacturing pillar of the Big 4 Agenda where Kenya seeks to establish itself as a regional leader in textile and apparel production.
The approval was made during a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi.
The progress is a breakthrough for Kenya, which lags other African countries in deployment of BT technology despite enormous knowledge in plant breeding for insect-resistance cotton and many crops including maize.
According to the Cornell Alliance for Science, Kenya currently has 39,000 cotton farmers, but the sector could support some 200,000 farmers and boost the nation’s production 10-fold — from 30,000 bales per year to 368,000 — through access to better seeds.
Low production, the institute says, has failed to supply the 120,000 bales of lint used per year by Kenya’s textile industry, requiring the county to import more than half of what it needs.
Kenya’s Vision 2030 has identified cotton as a key economic sub-sector, with the potential to benefit eight million people in the drier areas of the country. Kenya has the estimated potential to produce 260,000 bales of cotton if the area under cultivation is increased.