Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru has called for guaranteed coffee prices for the farmers.
Waiguru who was addressing a meeting between Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya and representatives of all the 15 Coffee Cooperative Societies in Kirinyaga, said that coffee farmers in the region have for a long time suffered in the hands of middlemen who buy coffee from them without any guaranteed price.
The governor called for speedy implementation of President Uhuru’s directives in coffee sector reforms which will see farmers benefit from the Cherry Advance Revolving Fund among other reforms.
She said that the best that can happen to coffee farmers are having a direct market for their coffee which she said would save them from exploitation by middlemen. They would also be able to negotiate for a guaranteed price for their crop.
The governor noted that the County that has 44, 969 acres of land under coffee grown by 67,578 farmers has a great potential in the coffee sector if the prevailing challenges were adequately addressed.
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“We are looking forward to the speedy implementation of the President’s directives on coffee sector recovery and also the operationalisation of Cherry Advance Revolving Fund.” She said.
She said that such funds would cushion farmers through access to finances to meet their daily flow requirements by giving them advance to pay for their delivered cherry. Currently, farmers are forced to wait for their pay for months after delivering their cherry.
She also wants consideration of a stabilisation fund to cushion farmers against fluctuating cherry prices caused by prevailing international market rates
The governor cited some of the challenges faced by coffee farmers in the region. Such include lack of direct markets for coffee, delay in payment to farmers, unfair compensation by buyers and lack of access to affordable farm inputs such as fertilizers and chemicals.
The governor also said that the county and the national government will be working together to address some of the challenges in the coffee sector.
"Supporting farmers to access direct market for their coffee, facilitation of access to guaranteed and good prices for their crop and building the capacity of extension service provides and farmers in order to increase production are some of the areas that need attention," she said.
?The governor also said that there is a need for research and technology in coffee production as well as enhancing the efficiency of coffee farmers Cooperatives.
The county chief further called upon the ministry of agriculture to undertake debt waivers for coffee cooperatives so that farmers can be freed from the debt burden to enable them to enjoy better returns from the sale of their coffee.
Waiguru assured the farmers that the county government is committed to supporting value addition of coffee such as coffee roasting to provide for direct sale to residents. She cited Mwirua Coffee Cooperative that has coffee value addition equipment saying that such initiatives would encourage local coffee drinking culture hence local markets.
The average production of coffee in Kirinyaga County is 30,000 tonnes with 2018/2019 registering 34,729 tonnes. The governor said that this amount can be improved to more than 50,000 tonnes if the prevailing challenges are addressed.
The county has 15 cooperative societies with 75 factories.
Kirinyaga coffee is mainly produced by small scale farmers with the county having some of the most favourable climatic conditions for coffee production in the world.