Farmers in Lamu County can now breathe a sigh of relief after the cabinet approved the commercial farming of BT cotton hybrids following the successful completion of field trials that were conducted over a period of five years.
According to a brief sent by statehouse, the commercial farming of BT cotton is set to ensure farmers earn more from the crop through increased production.
Field trials on the cotton had been ongoing with researchers stating that the crop had recorded a resistance against drought and pests that have almost rendered farming of the crop profitless.
The recent move raises hopes of raising cotton yields in the country to 260,000 bales from the current 28,000 bales annually.
Here in the coast region, cotton is mainly grown in Lamu county one of the areas affected by invasion of the notorious red spider mite.
Last year more than 10,000 acres of cotton were destroyed by the pest in Lamu County.
According to the Lamu Cotton Farmers spokesperson Joseph Migwi, efforts by farmers to spray all manner of prescribed insecticides bore no fruit as the pest seemed resistant to all.
The pest starts by eating up the inner cotton flower buds which are in turn expected to turn into the real cotton for harvesting.
“This year no single cotton farmer here will harvest anything. All our cotton has been destroyed by the Red Spider Mite pest. We used as many insecticides as we were advised but none worked and the pest kept spreading,”Migwi told Baraka FM last year.
However, the approval of the cotton hybrid has raised questions on Kenya’s stand on Genetically Modified seeds.
BT cotton is a genetically modified variety and a ban on importation and growing of GMOs was instituted by the government in 2012.
However Agriculture PS professor Hamadi Boga argues that the case on cotton is a special one.
The case that we are currently putting forward is the one on cotton, after that we can now push another case for maize,” Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga told the Business Daily in a past interview.