Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK) is asking the government for a KSh500 million bailout to turn it around. The company is requesting the Ministry of Agriculture to allocate the resources to allow its cash operations, as the company struggles with debt and graft.
My petition to the government is to give us Ksh500 million for operations. At the moment, the company does not have enough seeds and planting materials for production.PPCK Managing Director, Joseph Waweru
Pyrethrum, once the leading cash crops in Kenya, is a mere shell of its former glory. In its hay days, Kenya provided over 70% of the global supply of pyrethrum, produced by over 200,000 farmers. Today, less than 20,000 farmers grow the crop. Moreover, annual earnings are down from KSh4 billion in the ’90s to KSh200 million today.
The nosedive of once a key driver of Kenya’s foreign exchange came as a result of piecemeal reforms and deep-rooted corruption. For instance, farmers lack the motivation to pursue pyrethrum farming as a result of delayed payments and insufficient planting materials.
Furthermore, suspect tenders, illegal leasing of PPCK assets and non-payment of workers have left the processor on its knees. The company remains with 170 workers, with little work in their hands since PPCK now crushes 5 tonnes of dry flowers a month, down from 300 tonnes. Besides, some workers do not qualify for their positions.
“The management gap in skills at senior level at PPCK is wanting and for higher productivity, qualified workers must be engaged,” Nation quotes Pyrethrum Pension Workers superannuation scheme spokesperson.
Not All is Lost for Pyrethrum
Joseph Waweru, the new MD, is looking to revive the company and the sub sector, focusing on seed production.
“In the coming year, we want to focus more on serious seed production. Currently, we are working on nurseries in Molo, Ngongangeri, Limuru, and Kabichbich in West Pokot” said Waweru.
US investors are also looking to breathe life into the dying crop. Us Ambassador, Kyle McCarter, says that some American investors are setting up production factories in Nairobi. Consequently, the ambassador encouraged farmers and investors to return to the crop, citing immense potential.
Pyrethrum is something that Kenya historically has seen a lot of prosperity from, and that market is coming back. We shall continue our support for agriculture and we have some US investors who are already in Kenya now to invest in pyrethrum. We want to encourage investors who left the country to return.Us Ambassador, Kyle McCarter