Kenya’s pyrethrum sector on its deathbed

Nakuru governor Lee Kinyanjui has regretted that the country’s pyrethrum world market share had drastically dropped from 80 per cent in the past decade to the current 2 per cent.

Kinyanjui said although Nakuru County produced 70 per cent of the cash crop in the country in the 1990s, most farmers had opted out of the venture due to delayed payments and outright mismanagement of the now defunct Pyrethrum Board of Kenya (PBK).

Addressing stakeholders and farmers in the sub sector Wednesday, the governor who was accompanied by his deputy Dr. Eric Korir said it was alarming that in 2003, pyrethrum proceeds had netted the country S.3billion as opposed to Sh 20million raked in the last financial year.

Kinyanjui said pyrethrum had a reliable and stable international market as its products had been scientifically proven to be safe for use in homes and environmentally friendly as opposed to synthetic pyrethroids.

Urgent intervention measures must be put in place to revive this sector that was once fourth in foreign exchange earnings after tourism, tea and horticulture. The world demand for natural pyrethrum is ever increasing therefore all our farmers need to do is to plant the crop, he said.

He however noted that farmers in high potential pyrethrum growing areas had shifted to other food crops such as potatoes and bananas due to lack of incentives, poor extension services and labour intensive nature of pyrethrum sub sector.

The county boss assured farmers that his government was committed to working with the national government and other pyrethrum growing counties, namely Nyandarua, Narok, Kericho, and West Pokot among others in reviving the sector.

Measures need to be put in place to offset pending arrears owed to farmers by the defunct PBK, which failed to pay for dry flower deliveries to the board, running into millions of shillings. This will encourage those farmers who have opted out to reconsider their decision, he added.

He further noted that the modern ultra-million pyrethrum extraction and processing facility within Nakuru County was lying idle and could come in handy if the sector is revived.

Following liberalisation of the sector, the governor challenged independent processors and the board of pyrethrum processing facility to avoid past pitfalls that drove the sector on its knees by engaging in good management practices and promptly paying farmers for their deliveries.

Kinyanjui said the crop that was once considered the white gold of Nakuru was cost effective to farmers as it did not require pesticides and expensive fertilizers.

He challenged new independent processors to invest in research of high yielding pyrethrum varieties and modern extraction techniques to meet the growing world demand.

Farmers who attended the meeting called on the national government to plan a bail out for the sector as has been done for tea and coffee.

The farmers also want the pyrethrum processing company to hold new elections so as to usher in their representatives on the board.

Source: Kenya News Agency