Coffee reforms standoff persists as CS appoints transition team

DP Rigathi Gachagua holds a meeting with Cooperatives CS Simon Chelugui and other coffee stakeholders on November 14, 2023. [DPCS]

The appointment of the nine-member committee to steer the transition of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE) to the Coffee Exchange Ltd has attracted mixed reactions.

The Cabinet Secretary for the Cooperatives and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Development Simon Chelugui recently appointed Kenneth Gitonga from Meru Union Coffee Mills, coffee brokerage operator Peter Githinji of Alliance Berries Ltd, Amos Mamboleo of Mt Elgon Coffee Cooperative Union Mills to steer the reforms.

The appointment of the committee has met resistance from Kirinyaga Senator Kamau Murango. Murango through his Facebook account, cites that the members don’t represent the interest of the farmers. 

Murango said the appointment was skewed as counties of Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Embu, Kericho, Murang’a, Bungoma, and Meru had been sidelined despite producing most of the coffee.

“Githinji and Chepkirui operate a coffee brokerage firm, these are brokers operating in the sector,” claimed the senator. 

Charity Nkirote, an estate farmer in Meru called for the inclusion of the estate farmers in the technical committee.

“The estate sector has been neglected for a long despite producing more than 40 per cent of the produce in the market,” she said.

But farmers Peter Mwangi and Joyce Mumbi from Murang’a and Nyeri counties urged the senator to engage in policy-making to help farmers benefit from the increase of the cherry fund.

Mwangi said politicians should allow experts in the field to help guide the process of transitioning Nairobi Coffee Exchange to a new outfit. “It’s only in Kenya where politicians oppose development while pursuing their interests,” said Mwangi.

Mumbi noted that the Central region’s interests in the steering committee have been addressed. “All the sectors from the union mills, brokerage firms, and buyers are in the working committee,” said Mumbi.

Samson Mbarire from Kiamugumo village said the supremacy battles in Kirinyaga between Senator Murango and Governor Anne Waiguru have been frustrating the commissioning of the Kirinyaga Coffee Mill.

“As we appreciate the senator for having an eye on coffee farming, he should wait for the report from the technical committee as it comprises experts and farmers,” said Mbarire.

Joseph Kamande from the Karurumo factory in Murang’a said the committee should be left to guide the transition process as set by the government. 

The long-standing coffee farmers say the committee members have a history in coffee farming saying Kabocha and Githinji are farmers in Mukurwe-ini and Mathira respectively.

“The farmers will give their views in the public participation in the process,” said Kamande.

The formation of the committee follows spirited efforts made by brokerage firms appointed by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) that met rejection at NCE. 

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