Drought eats into Kenya’s coffee output as exports fall

Coffee at a farm in Itierio village in Bonchari sub county in Kisii County. [Photo by Denish Ochieng/Standard]
Kenya’s coffee sector has continued to decline despite Government efforts to revive what was once the country’s leading foreign exchange earner.

Latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows the volume of coffee exports from the country declined by 13.8 per cent last year alone.

“The volume of coffee exports declined from 10,900 metric tonnes in the third quarter of 2016 to 9,400 metric tonnes in the same quarter of 2017,” said KNBS in its third quarter GDP numbers.

According to industry players, growers realised poor harvests owing to bad weather and drought in 2016 and early last year despite coffee fetching good prices in the global market.

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Abandon crop

Poor returns have seen the production of Kenyan coffee decline over the years, with the Sh8 per kilo of cherry offered to farmers prompting a majority of them to abandon the crop, leading to a drop in production to about 40,000 metric tonnes from a high of 120,000 metric tonnes.

According to the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), total hectares under coffee dropped sharply in 2012 from 160,000ha to 109,000ha and then climbed back modestly to 113,500ha in 2015.

The area of coffee plantations in the 1980s and 1990s was at an average of 150,000ha.

Kenya’s world market share has since declined from 3.1 per cent in 1986 to 0.6 per cent in 2006.

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Smallholder farmers and estates are turning to real estate such as the industrial scale Tatu City project. 

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