More than 2000 job opportunities are in the offing following the modernisation of the textile industry in the North Rift.
Rift Valley Textiles (Rivatex), established 43 years ago, is roaring back to life. The sound of machines pulling cotton up the lever and over 400 workers busy with spinning, weaving and making garments is a clear indication that the company could soon be back on its feet.
Rivatex Managing Director Prof Thomas Kipkurgat said they have started receiving new machines from India and installation is going on as part of the modernisation process. This, he says, is expected to triple their production capacity.
“At the moment, we are processing 10 bales of cotton a day but after we fully modernise, the factory will process more than 70 bales per day, which translates to 36,000 bales per year. The new machines are efficient and effective,” Kipkurgat said.
He says the company currently produces 5,000 metres of finished fabric daily but when the new machines start operating, the daily production will rise to 40,000 metres. This will be sold locally and to the US through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
The once giant textile firm was opened in 1975 with the aim of growing it into of the most vibrant textile mills in the region. Unfortunately, the company ground to a halt in the 1990’s in what has been blamed on mismanagement. The facility was later placed under receivership. The machines at the factory also became obsolete.
Its abrupt closure brought anguish to farmers who had made a fortune supplying cotton. Moi University took over the management of the facility in 2007 but used it mostly for research.
But now there is hope of revival. Cotton farmers are already trooping back to the farms. Close to 40 staff have gone to India for specialised training. The company also wants to revive its football club, Rivatex FC, as a marketing tool.
The biggest challenge according to Kipkurgat is convincing farmers to start planting cotton so that the factory can make use of the locally available raw materials.
“For us to run efficiently, we require sufficient supply of cotton and we therefore request the farmers to start cotton farming. We assure farmers and the ginneries of a ready market for cotton at competitive prices,” he said.
“I used to supply cotton before the factory was shut down and now that it has picked momentum, together with my sons we have started preparing our farm so that in three months’ time we shall harvest and sell it to Rivatex,” said James Chemitei, 80.
Last week, Rivatex hosted India High Commissioner to Kenya Suchitra Durai during an event to mark the beginning of the implementation of modernisation process.
In 2016, India signed a Sh3 billion loan agreement with Kenya aimed at modernising Rivatex by supplying textile machinery.
The facility has linked up with counties where cotton was previously grown besides planting its own cotton at a 500-acre farm in Mogotio area in Baringo County.
The management has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Baringo and Kericho counties and is currently eyeing Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot with the hope of encouraging farmers to grow cotton. Other regions with the potential to grow cotton include Makueni, Homa Bay and Kwale.
“There is a ready market and as a factory we will not disappoint them. We will soon agree on a common market price per kilo through a tripartite agreement,” Kipkurgat said.
When the facility is up and running, it is expected to provide direct and indirect jobs to locals. “We expect to see creation of more than 2000 jobs through forward and backward linkages and promote President Uhuru Kenyatta’s big four agenda on industrialisation,” the Indian High Commissioner said.
Via The Standard
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