The Kenyan government has set aside Sh1.5bn to revive the pyrethrum farming, a crop that has recorded a decline in production from 18,000 metric tonnes in the 1990’s to just 500 metric tonnes currently.
Of the total funds budgeted, Sh863m will be loaned to farmers while the rest of the cash will be channeled to 19 pyrethrum counties in form of grants.
Sh70m has already been disbursed to farmers according to the Pyrethum Processing Company of Kenya.
The money was debt owed to farmers and had accrued since 2001 causing farmers to abandon the crop.
Pyrethrum is currently grown in the counties of Nakuru, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kiambu, TransNzoia, UasinGishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Nandi, Baringo, Laikipia, Narok, Kericho, Bomet, Kisii, Nyamira, Bungoma and Meru.
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From 1960 until the late 1990’s Kenya supplied more than 90 per cent of the world’s pyrethrum but currently produces less than two per cent of world pyrethrum as farmers abandoned the crop due to late payments by the then pyrethrum Board of Kenya, which has been renamed to the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK).
During its peak period, the crop was grown by over 220,000 farmers with the sector supporting more than two million people directly and indirectly.
Currently, it is estimated that there are only just over 30,000 pyrethrum farmers who supply their produce to PPCK.
Supply of the produce to PPCK has reduced from 518 metric tonnes in the 2010/11 season to 231 tonnes in the 2016/17 season.
Pyrethrum farmers in Kenya. Photo: courtesy
Pyrethrum is grown for its extract (known as pyrethrins) that originates from the plant’s flowers. It is used in the development of most household insecticides that are toxic to mosquitoes, fleas, moths, ants and other pest.
According to government figures, about 95 per cent of pyrethrum cultivated in the country is used for the extraction of pyrethrins which are sold locally and also exported.