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Government finds machine to produce twice the pyrethrum from farmers’ plants

Pyrethrum flowers

Over 200,000 pyrethrum farmers are set to benefit from Sh200m that the government has pledged to allocate for the pyrethrum sector for its revival having faced many challenges in the past years.

Until the late 1990s Pyrethrum farming in Kenya was highly profitable, and by the time the sector started ailing, the crop had been cultivated in Kenya for close to 60 years making Kenya the largest producer of the crop in the world, yielding more than 70 per cent of all cultivated pyrethrum according to the Pyrethrum Board of Kenya (PBK) statistics.

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Now the government is keen to get back pyrethrum production to its glory in order to uplift farmers’ fortunes again through its budget allocation in this financial year.

“The money will be factored in the 2018-2019 budget, to boost the initiative launched in 18 pyrethrum-growing counties by various pyrethrumstakeholders,” said Deputy Presdent William Ruto in Njoro after attending a Sunday service at African Inland Church.

Nakuru County has been in the foe front in reviving the sector with Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya acquiring a modern extraction machine for its Nakuru factory last month.

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The factory has been idle due to lack of raw materials. During its peak, it received flowers from 200,000 farmers. But the number drastically fell to 6,000 farmers.

“The revival plan is on top gear and already farmers have gone back to their farms to start planting,” said Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui.

Farmers moved away from the crop after PBK got inundated with reports of massive corruption, leading to delayed payments. In 2008, KSh3billion was siphoned from the Board, and farmers went unpaid for months.

In the same year, the PBK lost valuable assets including 850 acres of land, which was sold at KSh33million, although it was valued at KSh1.6b at the time.

Earlier, the PBK factory in Nakuru had caught fire and extensive damage was reported. However, the company had taken an insurance policy, which yielded KSh300million in compensation.

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A new plant, with modern machines would have cost KSh100m, but by the time the KSh300m was reported finished, the old machines, which had been put up for restoration, were not working and the officials were appealing for Sh150m more to get the job done.

Today, the amount of pyrethrum being produced in Kenya stands at 250 tonnes only, the industry having recorded a 98 percent drop in production in eight years. Kenya currently produces less than 2 percent of world pyrethrum.

Since 2003, the world has suffered an acute shortage of pyrethrum as a direct consequence of Kenya’s failings in pyrethrum production. This could mean that farmers can get more should the sector be jumpstarted again.

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To get Kenyan farmers interested in the crop again, Justus Monda, the chairman of the Pyrethrum Growers Association of Kenya, suggests that a committed effort be made towards giving farmers the needed capital.

“An acre of pyrethrum will cost a farmer KSh35,000 to plant, with KSh22,000 going to the purchase of seedlings and the rest for  inputs and associated production costs,” said Monda.

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