The Kilifi County Government has announced plans to introduce organic cocoa farming in a bid to diversify its agricultural output.
This follows a successful feasibility study conducted by Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Kilimo Sasa Fund on the crop’s viability in the region.
Speaking after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the county government, Kilimo Sasa Fund and the Community Agriculture Resources Development Program (CARDEP), Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi said Cocoa farming has the potential to immensely transform the livelihoods of the local farmers.
Kingi said the project will be centered around the local farmer with the county government and Kilimo Sasa Fund offering the necessary support through training and use of bio organic fertilizer.
Kilimo Sasa Fund Executive Officer Gary Stubley said they are keen on developing a cocoa seed variety that will rival other cocoa producing regions across the world.
Stubley said cocoa is extremely profitable in the world market and is sustainable for 40 – 50 years.
Meanwhile, the government has been urged to consider establishment of a Ministry of Tea to be solely responsible for all matters to do with tea such as production and marketing in the country.
Joshua Kanake, Director of Rukuriri tea factory who was speaking to the media said tea being the third contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should be considered for a ministry like other sectors such as tourism and mining.
“The government should take matters of tea seriously; being one of the best contributors to GDP and the best way to address the matter is by setting a fully-fledged ministry that will exclusively deal with tea,” Mr. Kanake noted.
He said with establishment of the ministry like it’s done in some countries to cater for all matters concerned with tea, the low returns the farmers are getting will be a thing of the past.
“Kenya only consumes 5 per cent of the tea it produces while the remaining 95 per cent is exported. This is indicative that the level of marketing of tea locally is low and this can only be reversed with the creation of a ministry that will be responsible for expanding the local and external markets,” he further added.
Mr. Kanake said apart from sourcing for local and international market, the ministry will also be responsible for value addition of the commodity in order to increase its marketability, hence fetching more returns to the farmers and country at large.
“The factories can do value addition for the tea but the main challenge they will face is marketability of the same which is limited,” he noted.
The director also suggested that the government to be buying tea from the farmers and storing it when the prices are low and releasing it when the prices are good similarly to what is done to maize.