Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development Cabinet Secretary Ms. Betty Maina said farmers should expect to plant Bt cotton by November 2020. Speaking during a science media café organized by OFAB Kenya, the CS said, there will be nothing to stop farmers from planting Bt cotton in the coming October – November short rains season.
“The Cabinet approval for commercialization of Bt cotton has already been given. In my mind, there is nothing to prevent farmers from planting Bt cotton. There is an environmental impact assessment (EIA) being undertaken by National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), which will provide the final approval” she said.
Panelists engaging with the CS during the webinar
Kenya is in a race against time to commercialize Bt cotton to fully benefit from the AGOA framework which gives access to the US market, as well as meet the growing local demand for cotton. Last year alone, Kenya sold textile and apparel products worth about $500 million to the US market. Given the country relies on imported fabric and other raw materials, a huge chunk of the money was lost. “If 60% of the $500 million from textile and apparel products sold to the US market was the value of the fabric, then we sent away nearly $300 million worth of imported fabric and raw materials to producing countries, which could have been a benefit to Kenya, if this was localized” said the CS.
Speaking during the same virtual event, Dr. Charles Waturu, Bt cotton lead scientist sort to allay fears that the EIA may impede farmers access to Bt cotton seed in good time for planting during the October –November short rains. “I can confirm that there is enough time to complete the EIA, get a permit to commercially plant Bt cotton from NEMA and plant at the right time. What is important is for Mahyco, the company tasked to avail Bt cotton seeds in the country, to bring in enough seeds for farmers” added Dr. Waturu.
Currently, Bt cotton is being grown outside of confinement in farmer demonstration plots. All indicators from the demonstration sites point to the variety performing beyond expectations. Kenya is joining South Africa, Malawi, Nigeria, Sudan and Ethiopia in growing GM cotton in the continent.