The International Coffee Organisation (ICO) has advised counties to find ways to get more youths into the coffee sector.
During a meeting in Governor Mutahi Kahiga’s office on Monday, ICO Executive Director José Sette said coffee farmers globally were ageing while youths were shying away from the crop.
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“Around the world, more the average age of coffee farmers has gone up while the young farmers are nowhere to be found. Youths today are not as patient and want the sector to offer instant returns,” he said.
He called on all stakeholders to embrace innovation that will get youths interested in coffee farming and boost the sector.
“As ICO, we shall have at least two meetings a year to explore and encourage innovation in the sector to bring on board youths in the coffee value chain. We must accommodate the young,” he said.
Mr Sette said Kenyan coffee was still considered the best quality in the world market and that the sector should take advantage of this perception to create a niche for itself.
“The international market looks for the best quality and Kenyan coffee is one of them. I am from Brazil and even if we produce coffee, Kenyan coffee is hailed as the best,” he said.
“There is an opportunity for the coffee sector in Kenya to benefit from setting itself apart from mainstream marketing to allow for a unique niche focused on quality.”
During the meeting, Governor Kahiga highlighted the county's efforts to increase coffee production and value addition, including supporting coffee societies in milling and packaging.
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“Currently we have Othaya, Barichu, Rumukia and Gikanda coffee societies that have their own milling factories,” he said.
Agriculture Executive Henry Kinyua said the societies had the capacity to mill 0.5 million metric tonnes of coffee but were only milling 40,000.
“We plan to boost at least one of the mills so it can handle all the necessary value addition for the county,” he said.
Mr Kinyua also proposed a change in definition of farm ownership to allow landless youths to lease coffee trees.
“For now a farmer can only be admitted into a society if they own the land on which the coffee is grown,” he said.
Coffee Sub-Sector Reforms Implementation Committee chairman Joseph Kieyah called for an audit of coffee co-operative societies in the country.