Grim outlook as millers battle for bigger market share

Farmers during a special annual general meeting at Othaya Coffee Mills last month.  [PHOTO: MOSE SAMMY/STANDARD]
               Farmers during a special annual general meeting at Othaya Coffee Mills last month.[PHOTO: MOSE SAMMY/STANDARD]
By BONIFACE GIKANDI

Before Murang’a co-operatives commissioned their own mills, milling and marketing of coffee was a pain for Murang’a County farmers.

However, today competition has intensified among marketers but, sadly, production has declined. Last year, Murang’a produced 35 million kilogrammes of coffee, a big drop as the county averaged 50 million kilogrammes in  the 1990s.

Coffee farmers received an average of Sh34 per kilo last year although marketing agents had offered them an advance of Sh20 with an expectation of Sh40 full payment.

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An agent of a miller revealed that they expected the prices to decline this year following fluctuation on the international market and that farmers were being advanced on the basis of an expected final pay of Sh30.

Fluctuating prices

“We are cautious not to give a lot of money as advance as the prices have been fluctuating steadily,” said the agent.

Last year, Murang’a Farmers Co-operative Union acquired a Sh40 milling plant, which opened up fresh wounds that saw commercial millers embark on campaigns to advance  co-operatives inputs including chemicals and fertilisers to bind them under their umbrella.

The Eastern Aberdare Coffee Cooperative Mills (Ecomill) located in Maragua town appears to have however received overwhelming support from cooperative societies even as the commercial millers intensified their campaigns promising better take-home for farmers.

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 Murang’a County Agro Marketing and Cooperatives Secretary Edward Muiruri said they would support Ecomill to purchase roasting machines as part of value-addition chain for better returns.

“We are committed to ensuring that Murang’a coffee farmers sell their coffee directly to the buyers instead of passing through the marketers.

“In the next financial year a roasting plant will be made available to ensure our coffee goes directly to the shop shelf,” Muiruri told a co-operative stakeholders’ forum.

He urged farmers to ensure annual meetings to approve  milling contracts are not politicised but used to ensure farmers get the best deal.

Murang’a Farmers Cooperative Union General Manager Ephantus Wanjohi said Ecomill wanted to stay ahead of profit-driven private millers.

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Wanjohi said ‘mbuni’, the coffee picked at the end of the harvesting period and delivered for milling, had fetched an average of Sh90 per kilogramme in top performing factories.

“We are expecting to pay more than what the millers have offered as we have reduced milling charges and other costs. The mill belongs to the farmers, why charge more if some of the expenditures can be lowered,” asked Wanjohi.

bigger market share Murang’a County farmers