Throughout this blog series there have been two main protagonists: the hero of the story, the humble pyrethrin, a huge contributor to the Kenyan economy and the very backbone of Kapi LTD, and then the evil villain in the shape of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite covering both ends of the spectrum there has been very little on the intricate interrelationship between the two. As with many global economies this widespread virus has caused supply chains to wilt and with China being one of the largest manufacturers of chemicals globally, the pyrethrum industry is no exception.
The first obvious impact of the pandemic hit the very roots of the industry, in the agricultural sector. Being a completely organic compound obtained from the chrysanthemum cinerariifolium, Pyrethrum plants need to be farmed and need extensive attention and care. With major COVID restrictions in both Australia and Tasmania, the two global pyrethrum producing powerhouses, pyrethrum yield for 2020/21 is expected to drop.
As mentioned earlier, the major effect to the industry is the constant and unplanned disruptions to the supply chain. Kapi have struggled with this throughout the last two years in terms of procurements, with key chemical suppliers in China and Kenya closing during large portions of the pandemic. This has halted manufacturing of pyrethrum products globally and in turn will cause a rise in prices for the end consumer. With many malaria stricken areas also being below the poverty line, it has left many families having to sacrifice much needed mosquitos protection and therefore malaria cases have taken a turn for the worse during the pandemic.
Pyrethrum is a 100% natural and environmentally friendly insecticide. It is broad spectrum, meaning it kills virtually all insects, yet it has very low mammalian toxicity, and is therefore safe for use with humans and most warm blooded animals.
Its application in agriculture is also unique.
As it is 100% natural it can be used as an insecticide in organic farming, and is one of the few insecticides allowed for use in Certified Organic Production of crops in Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Pyrethrins (the active chemicals in pyrethrum) have been used in insect control for more than 170 years. The commercial production of pyrethrum flowers in Kenya started in 1928.