Restoring a national textile industry
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CTA. 2004. Restoring a national textile industry. Rural Radio Resource Pack 04/5. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57315
Dennis Ochwada of Kenya?s National Cotton Stakeholders? Forum describes how Kenya?s cotton and textile industry is being rebuilt.
Restoring a national textile industry Cue: In the last twenty years, approximately four out of every five textile manufacturers in Kenya has closed down. And among Kenya?s farmers, the decline in cotton production has been equally severe. But what are the reasons for this collapse in the cotton industry, and can anything be done about it? In fact, the reasons are many, and much is already being done. As a start, the Kenyan government has carried out in depth studies that have revealed weaknesses in every part of the cotton chain, from poor quality cotton seed, to unfair competition in world markets. Now, an organisation called the National Cotton Stakeholders? Forum has begun to work on the solutions. The Forum is organising activities at many different levels, to address problems throughout the industry. This has meant working with farmers, processors, marketing agents and crop scientists, and trying to establish links between them that will benefit all whose lives and livelihoods are somehow tied to cotton. Dennis Ochwada is the secretary of the Forum, as well as being Chairman of the Kenya Cotton Growers Association. He spoke to Eric Kadenge about the problems that face Kenya?s cotton industry, and how they are now being addressed. IN: ?In the mid 1980s there? OUT: ? we are seriously working on it.? DUR?N 5?24? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Dennis Ochwada of Kenya?s National Cotton Stakeholders? Forum was talking to Eric Kadenge. Transcript Ochwada In the mid 1980s there were about 51 textile industries in Kenya. As a result of the adverse situation of the cotton textile sector a lot of them closed down. At the moment we are having about seven functioning textile industries and most of them are still operating very much under-capacity because of lack of raw material, poor state of equipment, and lack of finance for reinvestment. Kadenge At least there is good news now that measures are underway to try and revive this industry. What are those measures? Ochwada First, stakeholders have come together and they have realised the importance of cotton. By stakeholders I mean farmers, I mean those who own the processing industry both primary and secondary, I mean the manufacturers of textiles, I mean the actual manufacturers of apparels, all the way down to the mama cherehani at the local duka in the village. They have come together and they have formed the National Cotton Stakeholders? Forum. They have looked at the local cotton textile chain from bottom to top and back and have realised where these weaknesses are. We have also gone out and looked at the possibilities of producing seed because we really don't have good quality seed from which our farmers can benefit right now. We have also looked at the market situation and the main problem here was that farmers really didn't know who to sell it to. Anybody could come along and cheat a farmer, take his cotton and that is the end of the story. On the other hand the processor also who wanted cotton did not know where to find the farmer. So we have created a linkage between the producers and their market as a means of stabilising the whole situation in order for it then now to start regenerating. Kadenge Cotton being a cash crop is also a crop that can be exported internationally. How is the playing field when in comes to the international market? Ochwada We have been saying that we Kenyan producers are efficient producers of cotton; we are competitive at the production level. Unfortunately some people, mainly in the west, are not competitive but they have resources to keep an uncompetitive sector going through subsidies. Now this is illogical. They should do what they do best and they should allow us to do what we do best. At the international level in terms of quality our cotton is good. In terms of price our cotton is good. The only problem is when you introduce subsidies by western countries then we become unable to compete. Kadenge And is there anything that you can do then to meet that challenge? Ochwada We are continuing to lobby for the removal of those subsidies while at the same time improving our own efficiency in production so that we continue to be competitive. Kadenge Now I do realise that cotton is one crop that requires a lot of chemical input and this can have an impact on the final cost of production for the farmer. Is this something that you are trying to address? Ochwada Yes. First of all let me say that the cost of chemicals and pesticides take anything between 31%-37% of the cost of production. So you can see they are quite significant. Any way we can find of mitigating that cost is of benefit to the farmer. Now what is happening is that while we are trying to get to the farmer better techniques of managing his crop so that his use of chemicals and pesticides goes down, we are also looking at alternatives like organic cotton. Those are varieties which have a special attraction in that their use of chemical is virtually negligible. They command a niche market which fetches a better price in the rich north. But we are also trying to look at what causes the chemicals to be so expensive because chemicals are also expensive. Kadenge Now all said and done would you tell a farmer that cotton is a good business to get into and why? Ochwada Well cotton is a good business to get into because it?s a hardy crop, it's drought resistant and it grows in those areas where not many other cash crops grow. So it is something that I would tell farmers to do. First of all from the individual household level they can get money. In terms of the national economy, its extensive coverage is good for the economy. We are estimating that a fully revived cotton industry in this country would create the 500,000 jobs that have been talked about all over the place. Kadenge And in terms of the future, when do you see a fully revived cotton industry coming into play? Ochwada I would like to see it tomorrow. Unfortunately it doesn't quite work that way. There are certain things which have got time implications which we cannot avoid. One, the development of the pure seed. Surely you are not going to have a re-established and fully functional cotton sector if you don't have a pure seed. This we estimate will take about three to four years. That will go with other strategies such as the training of the farmers, the rehabilitation of our processing industry and the development of the marketing structures. That will take about three to four years if we are seriously working on it and we think we are seriously working on it. End of track.