Lack of appropriate leadership,human source, science and technology are the challenges facing exploitation of cotton to clothing value chain in the COMESA region despite the large percentage of able youths,says the Minister for trade.
Speaking during the official opening of the COMESA regional Cotton to Clothing strategy review stakeholders meeting at a Nairobi Hotel, the Minister, Chirau Ali Mwakwere said that the factors affecting the textile industry in region needs to be reviewed to revive the chain if the region is to benefit from the huge trade potential in EAC, COMESA and the soon to be realized tripartite trade arrangement between EAC, COMESA and SADC.
“ what is preventing the region form exploiting the cotton to clothing value chain potential while the region has a large percentage youthful population that needed to be put to work?I believe the COMESA regional cotton to clothing value chain strategy has been developed to synergize the various interventions in the region aimed at address these challenges,” said Mwakwere.
Noting the enormous employment opportunities in the COMESA region, Mwakwere cited the chain as among the longest ones, with the diversity and capability of employing the unskilled semi-skilled and the skilled workforce of both genders and the youth, he however called for the development of a backward linkage to the textile industry for growth and sustainability.
“. The employment opportunities in the related service industry are also enormous as witnessed in Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Swaziland and Madagascar in AGOA export apparel manufacturing before the end of Multi-Fiber Agreement in 2005.However there is a need to develop backward linkage to Fabric manufacture, spinning and cotton production to ensure growth and sustainability.
While noting that various industries may feel the physical trade will be distorted through supporting the small scale farmers with income and minimum price for cotton seeds Mwakwere said
sluggish demand of cotton may lead to downfall in prices. But, as a part of the responsible trade and industry, cotton farmers must be treated as partners. He is now calling on the governments of the nations in the region to support the small scale farmers to ensure the is constant supply of raw material. “If the inflation rate goes up, cost of Agri-input goes up, cost of living for the farmers’ families also go up and therefore, they must be reasonably compensated by way of minimum price setting. If the farming is protected and supported, trade and industry will flourish. Therefore, we must protect our farmers at all costs by providing them remunerative prices.
He also called on the governments in the Continent to invest in science and technology to advice both the private and sectors and the public on the appropriate technologies that will develop the textile industry amid the era of affordable technological innovations in the world.
“all African Governments should create and fund programmatic Science and technology advisory committee to research , search and advise the public and private sectors on the appropriate technologies for the development of the region. These technologies when properly applied can increase farmer’s income and the competitiveness of ginning, textile and apparel sub-sectors,” said Mwakwere.
Mwakwere added: “I urge the Ministry of Agriculture and that of Water and irrigations in Kenya to consider using cotton as rotational crop in Bura, Mwea and Ahero irrigation schemes to increase Kenyan cotton production. This will maximize the use of the irrigation facilities in these regions while at the same time diversifying and increasing farmer incomes.”