Coffee farmers from Embu and Kirinyaga counties want the government to set up a fund to cushion them from low berry prices.
The farmers also expressed their reservations with having the New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (New KPCU) administer the proposed Coffee Cherry Advance Revolving Fund, saying the union has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement in the past.
The coffee farmers drawn from various co-operative societies and estates, their officials and regional leaders were giving their views on the draft Coffee Cherry Advance Revolving Fund Regulations during a public consultation forum at Kutus ACK Hall yesterday.
Appearing before the Joffrey Malombe-led Inter-agency Task Force developing regulations for the fund, the farmers and leaders were unanimous that national and county governments must find ways to increase coffee production.
The national government has set aside Sh3 billion to run the Coffee Cherry Advance Revolving Fund, which is aimed at advancing loans to coffee farmers to improve production.
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According to Mr Malombe, farmers will access loans from the fund at a 3 per cent administrative charge.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru backed calls for a stabilisation fund, and said she would set up a similar fund in her county.
Manyatta MP John Muchiri called for the setting up of a minimum guaranteed coffee price of at least Sh100 per kilogramme of berries.
Kirinyaga Deputy Governor Peter Ndambiri and Embu Senator Njeru Ndwiga blamed cartels for the woes facing coffee farmers, saying they had infiltrated all levels of production.
“Kenya coffee is a premium one and fetches up to Sh1, 000 per kilogramme at the auction, but farmers earn little. This is one area we also need to address,” said Mr Ndwiga.
Nominated MP Cecily Mbarire proposed an independent board that has the trust of farmers to administer the cherry fund and not New KPCU.
In Nyamira, farmers want the cherry fund devolved instead of being handled by the central government.
Area farmers and leaders told the task force that the fund may not help the intended farmers unless it is devolved.
Nyamira Agriculture Executive Peris Mong’are said her county already has a County Agricultural Development Fund and proposed the cherry fund cash be channelled through it.
“The county’s revolving fund is a replica of what the national government is doing and it will only be proper if a consideration is made to give every county its share,” Ms Mong’are said.
Area Deputy County Commissioner Julius Otieno appealed for support for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s push to improve the coffee sector.
Two weeks ago, President Kenyatta ordered the fast-tracking of a law that would help coffee farmers access favourable funding terms.