Kenya's plastic ban has opened up business opportunities for sisal hemp cultivation
Global times special correspondent in Egypt QuXiangYu 】 plastic bags to cope with the serious pollution to the environment, Kenya in August last year, a total ban on plastic bags to use, production, sales, or the use of plastic bags in Kenya will be faced with in 1 to 4 years of imprisonment or maximum 4 million Ken shillings (RMB 260000) fine, carrying bags of citizens may arrested by the police. Although the ban makes it less convenient for local residents who have been using free plastic bags for a long time, and breaks the life of plastic production and sales enterprises, it brings Kenyan farmers an unexpected business opportunity to replace packaging products -- sisal hemp cultivation.
Sisal originated in Mexico, now mainly in Africa, Latin America, Asia and other places planted, is now the world's large amount of a wide range of hard fiber. Sisal hard leaf fibers can be used to make bags instead of banned plastic bags. Kenya exported 201.44 million tons of sisal hemp in 2017, up from 212.5 million tons the year before, according to a report released by the Global Natural Fibers Organization on April 30. Sixty per cent of Kenya's sisal exports go to Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and China. Kenya is the world's third largest producer of sisal hemp, after Brazil and Tanzania, with annual production of around 23,000 tons.
Many supermarkets in Kenya are replacing plastic bags with cloth bags after a new plastic ban came into effect, boosting demand for vegetable fibres such as sisal. Mugara, a farmer in the southern town of Kibwicz, said sisal used to sell for as little as 30 Kenyan shillings per kilogram, but prices soared to 100 after the government imposed a ban on plastics. He said he used to mainly grow cowpeas and sorghum, but now he grows sisal hemp in large quantities. "The prospects are so good that some buyers are even coming directly to my fields."
Despite its high yield, Kenya's sisal yield per hectare is consistently below the world average (currently around 850 kg per hectare, compared with less than 800 kg in Kenya). This is a far cry from China, which produces 5,000 kilograms per hectare. Because of huge differences in productivity, plus century since the 90 s, China has become importer of sisal fiber to be across the middlemen to control raw material costs, a growing number of SBC to Kenya, will China's planting technology combined with Kenya's rich land resources, cheap labor, gradually formed the "big capital, machine, large plantation production pattern. A sisal company from southern China is planning to invest a large amount of money to produce about 70,000 tons of sisal hemp per hectare in Kenya's Embu county, the Kenyan daily Nation reported. At present, the project is at a critical stage of land lease negotiations.
An Indian company made a similar attempt in Kenya between the 1960s and 1980s, but was forced to close in the mid-1980s after failing to manage its large-scale land purchase with local communities and individual farmers. Land in Kenya is currently divided into state, community and private lands. The agricultural land needed to grow sisal is generally community land, and transactions involving such land generally require the consent of the family and the community. As a result of existing local policies, only private land can be bought by ordinary people (both foreigners and natives), with sisal producers allowed to lease up to a long term lease.
Apart from the risk of land lease, another major uncertainty in growing sisal in Kenya is the sisal itself. Sisal fiber and synthetic fiber manufacturers have long been in fierce competition, and synthetic fiber is often supported by restrictive trade policies and subsidies. In the 1970s, the world's annual production of sisal and grey-leaf sisal fibers was about 750,000 tons. After that, the world sisal fiber production continued to decline due to the advent of chemical fiber products, which replaced natural fiber products. By 1999, the annual output of sisal fiber dropped to 261,000 tons.
Sisal fiber bags are also more expensive than plastic bags, although they are more environmentally friendly. The u.n. Environment Program's Africa director, Jan Biot, says the bags are more expensive than plastic bags, adding to the burden of living for the poor.