PYRETHRUM & INDUSTRIAL CROPS DIRECTORATE
Pyrethrum has been of historical importance and commercially exploited since the 1850’s when it was popularly traded as the Dalmatian flower. It is a perennial herbaceous plant grown for its insecticidal properties found in flowers.
Pyrethrum was introduced in Kenya in 1928. By 1935 a total of 170 metric tonnes (MT) were produced, which was above the local demand, necessitating a search for an export market.
The pyrethrum legislation the Pyrethrum Act (Cap 340) was repealed in January 2013.
The crop thrives at altitudes of 1700 – 2900 m and is currently grown in Nakuru, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kiambu, TransNzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Nandi, Baringo, Laikipia, Narok, Kericho, Bomet, Kisii, Nyamira, Bungoma (Mt. Elgon) and Meru counties. Embu has not returned to growing the crop.
Kenya was the leading world producer of natural pyrethrum since World War II, accounting for over 70% of all pyrethrum traded in the World. Over the years, the pyrethrum industry has faced challenges such as competition from synthetic pyrethroids, limited usage of the products, unreliable supply to customers and regulatory pressure in the pesticide industry.
Pyrethrum as an enterprise has an average gross margin of Ksh 170,000 per hectare per year under current market price and can occupy as little as one-quarter of an acre but remain profitable to the farmer. It is the only crop whose producer price can only increase and hardly drops unlike its competing enterprises with highly unpredictable prices. Pyrethrum fits well in the economic pillar of Vision 2030 on the grounds that it is a crop that can be converted into a myriad of value added products. Every single product derived from pyrethrum becomes a raw material for other products.
From the environmental perspective, pyrethrum is a natural source of biodegradable insecticides and acaricides used in the crop protection, animal industry and public health sub-sectors. Pyrethrum quickly knocks down and ultimately kills a wide range of household insects such as fleas, flies, cockroaches, lice, bedbugs and various insect pests that infest stored grain and other foodstuffs.