Coffee farmers struggle to recover losses


Dancun Kamau, at his Batian coffee firm in Embu. Batian coffee farming is sponsored by Nestle Kenya and is known to be high yielding and disease resistant.Nestle, aims at creating value across the coffee supply chain, from farmers to consumers.PHOTO DAVID NJAAGA/STANDARD}

The devastating impact of drought on Nyeri county's economy was revealed last weekend.

According to the Livestock, Tea and Coffee Situation Report from the county's agriculture department, tea and coffee production fell by nearly 50 per cent as drought swept across farms in the region.

Coffee production declined from 35.8 million kilos by June last year to 19.8 million kilos this year.

For tea farmers, the drought dropped yields by up to 28 per cent.

The yields declined in all tea-growing areas, dropping from 77.9 million kilos last year to 50 million kilos by March 2017.

Nyeri Central produced the least coffee in the county at 482,123kg.

"The flowering of coffee was low during April (the main flowering period) 2016. This was related to rainfall in January that reduced the required water stress period," stated the report.

Inadequate rain between April and July dealt a further blow to the region's major cash crops.

"Water stress in some cases caused withering, leaf fall and nutritional stress yellowing of leaves," said County Agriculture Executive Robert Thuo.

Delayed ripening led to late coffee harvesting and processing.

But although the region is yet to fully recover from the drought, there are indications that scattered rains have induced early flowering in coffee, raising hopes of higher production.

Water stress

According to the report, coffee farmers have a reason to smile because the water stress has triggered better flowering compared to the previous season.

A visit to Thunguri Coffee Factory in Mukurweini revealed farmers had already begun harvesting.

"Most farmers will produce at least triple what they harvested last season as they are already harvesting two months ahead of season," said Jane Mumbi, a farmer.

The county has already harvested 587,364kg of coffee, way above what was recorded at the same time last year.

On average, farmers harvested a paltry 4,000kg last season.