Earnings from sisal jump to Sh1.3b as global prices rise

Thursday, October 21st, 2021 00:00 |
Sisal farming. Photo/Courtesy

Kenya’s earnings from sisal rose to Sh1.3 billion during the third quarter of 2021/22, driven by growing demand and high prices in the global market.

August had the highest export volumes at 2,944.1 tonnes in comparison to the other three months.

During the quarter, sisal fibre was exported to 27 destinations, with Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, China, Ghana, and Spain being the top five, according to Fibre Crops directorate of Agriculture Food and Authority (AFA). 

The price of a kilo of sisal hit a high of $1.6 (Sh177.66) during the quarter, up from $1.49 (Sh165.45) in a similar period in 2020.

According to a report by the directorate, earnings were high despite export volumes being lower in the period under review compared to the previous period due to the drought experienced this year. 

It says West and North African countries are currently the leading export destinations beating global big boys of China, India, Belgium, Philippines and Germany.  

Nigeria imported 20 per cent of commodities of 1,415.50 tonnes of raw and sisal fibre worth Sh258.4 million followed by Saudi Arabia at 839 tonnes equivalent to Sh164.8 million.

Once leading in terms of importers of the commodity, China is now at position three after importing 746 tonnes of sisal worth Sh120 million.

The top five market destinations had a market share of 63 per cent of the entire volume of sisal exports during the quarter under review.

According to available data, Brazil is the leading producer of sisal followed by Tanzania, Kenya and China. Sisal sub-sector was second in 1972 in terms of foreign exchange earnings after coffee.

In the last three months July-September, farmers produced 6,926.80 tonnes earning $11.5 million (Sh1.2 billion). 

High quality

A senior officer in the directorate said that the West and North African countries have of late expressed high interest in the local sisal owing to high quality attributes.

And some brokerage firms are expressing interest to set up factories locally in order to access the commodity.  

Although Kenya is position one and three globally in terms of quality and production respectively, the directorate’s states that the industry is largely dominated by large-scale farmers and currently they are not expanding their area under sisal. 

Ten established estates spread across the Coast, Eastern and Rift Valley regions of the country produce and export 95 per cent compared to five per cent production by smallholder growers spread all over the arid and semi-arid lands of the country.

The directorate says that even though rated highly globally in terms of quality, Kenya’s production compared to Brazil is little. 

For example, in 2013, production reached 28,000 tonnes elevating Kenya to position three after Brazil  which produced 150,600 tonnes and Tanzania 34,900 tonnes.

In 2020, a total of 30,327.53 tonnes of fibre was produced out of which 29,644.37 tonnes was from Estates, and the rest, 683.16, from smallholder farmers. 

In 2018 investors established an over Sh100 million sisal processing factory in Migori County owned by Al Nagel Holdings Ltd a subsidiary of the Al Nagel Holdings Ltd of Egypt.

Eric Migudi, a director with the company said sisal growing in the region has untapped high potential.

“Establishing of the facility in Kenya is geared towards full exploitation of the crop.

Over and above production of fibre, a farmer can benefit from other byproducts such as organic fertiliser, animal feeds, pharmaceuticals, household and industrial chemicals,” he said.

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