The Industrial Crops Research Institute was created by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Act of 2013 and is headquartered in Mtwapa in Kilifi County. Agricultural research in coastal Kenya dates back to 1957, when research on fruits (mainly citrus) was started at Matuga in Kwale County under the Ministry of Agriculture. In 1962, research was extended to Mtwapa mainly focusing on tree crops (coconut) research under the Coast Agricultural Research Station (CARS). In 1989 the Centre was renamed the Regional Research Centre Mtwapa under the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI).
The Institute will cater for the main industrial crops except tea, coffee and sugar. These include cotton, sunflower, pyrethrum, barley, tobacco, sisal, coconut, cashew and bixa. Other industrial crops are kenaf, safflower, soybean and castor oil. Industrial crops provide a significant source of income to many people and are recognized as important in the attainment of the country's Vision 2030 and the national industrialization strategy.
The current challenges along the industrial crops value chains are low productivity, aged orchards, high infestation of pests and diseases and limited value addition due to lack of skills in processing and packaging. In addition, producers face marketing difficulties due to undeveloped marketing chains thus limiting the exploitation of the crops. For example, the current monetary value of coconut and coconut products is KES 3.2 billion, which is only 25% of the estimated potential of KES 13 billion. It is expected that the Institute will undertake research to address these challenges to increase productivity and quality of the products.