The Kenyan government has settled massive debts owed to pyrethrum farmers as part of efforts to revive the ailing sector and restore the country's position as a major producer.
After several failed attempts, and numerous detailed task force reports gathering dust in government departments, Kenya admits that addressing the plight of pyrethrum farmers would revive the sector and regain its presence in key markets like the US, the EU and South Africa.
For this reason, the government through the Pyrethrum Processing Company has settled historical debts owed to farmers amounting to $1 million and is opening up the sector for competition by licensing private companies to compete with the PPC.
The companies, including Africhem Botanical, Orion EPZ Ltd, Highchem East Africa and Senju Development Company are designed to restore confidence among farmers by making the sector competitive.
The state-owned PPC is also putting in place measures that include recruiting contracted farmers, supplying them with seeds and safeguarding high yielding varieties.
The PPC has partnered with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service to research new varieties and roll out seed growing schemes in partnership with farmers.
The company has recruited farmers in eight counties with 3,000 acres under pyrethrum cultivation and hopes to hit 10,000 acres by June next year. Ultimately, PPC hopes to increase production from the current 350 tonnes to at least 1,000 tonnes.
"Settling historical debts has helped in creating confidence among farmers. Now we just need to guarantee timely payments and the sector will start to blossom," said Paul Lolwerkoi, the PPC managing director.
Kenya has long lost its position as a leading pyrethrum producer with Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda emerging as key producers in East Africa alongside countries like Papua New Guinea, Switzerland and Italy.
Tanzania and Rwanda, in particular, have become leading producers due to adopting the co-operative movement system; today, the two make up over 75 per cent of the world supply.
This comes at a time when demand for pyrethrins is on the rise as agrichemical manufacturers increasingly prefer products with low mammalian toxicity and zero-residue biopesticides.