Sh3 billion coffee farmers advance scheme may take months to kick off

Coffee Taskforce Implementation Committee chairman Prof Joseph Keiyah (centre) with Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi (right) and Deputy governor Titus Ntuchiu when the team visited Meru for a public meeting on the proposed national coffee subsector policy. [Wainaina Ndung'u, Standard]

The operations of a scheme designed to provide cash-strapped coffee farmers with advance payment for their cherry has gotten bogged down in bureaucracy.

Coffee Sector Implementation Committee chairman Joseph Keiyah said implementation of the Sh3 billion Cherry Advance Revolving Fund may take months to kick off.

Prof Keiyah was speaking when he paid a courtesy call to Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi ahead of public hearings on the proposed National Coffee Policy.

He said the Treasury is yet to gazette the rules and regulations of the scheme's operations as required under the Public Finance Management Act.

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“We have published in the Gazette the Coffee Rules and Regulations, 2019 that provide for this scheme but the Treasury needs to do its part as required by the law. So I would say the delay is not intentional,” Keiyah said.

The government has already released the money that is intended to help farmers finance operations such as weeding, pruning and harvesting coffee, which are expensive and dissuade many people from cultivating the crop.

Governors and senators in Mt Kenya region have written separate memoranda to President Uhuru Kenyatta blaming Keiyah's committee for delays in rolling out the scheme that will allow farmers receive cheap credit with interest capped at three per cent per annum.

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Keiyah, however, described access to cheap credit and fair and timely payments as being at the heart of the coffee sub-sector reforms, adding that his committee was moving carefully to ensure that the money was not misused like in similar schemes in the past.

He also said the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE) will soon be placed under the supervision of the Capital Marketing Authority, which has a new mandate to police commodity exchanges.

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Kiraitu said there was need to connect more coffee cooperatives with overseas buyers.

"The reality is that as long as you can ensure that the farmer gets fair prices and timely payments for their produce, you do not need to convince anyone to cultivate the crop,” he said.

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Coffee farmersKiraitu MurungiUhuru Kenyatta