State to waive Sh6.9 billion owed by coffee farmers cooperatives

A farmer sorts coffee berries at a farm in Nyeri. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

The government plans to waive at least Sh9.6 billion in loans borrowed from various financial institutions by coffee farmers' cooperatives.

Cooperatives, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Development Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said waiver of the loans will revitalise the coffee sub-sector.

Chelugui said writing off the debts was only awaiting Cabinet approval.

The CS called for urgent action to boost coffee production across the country.

"President William Ruto has already been briefed about the initiative and he has given the green light. I am going to present it in the next Cabinet meeting. We have a plan to ensure farmers to increase coffee production," the CS said.

Chelugui, while presiding over Medium Plan IV dissemination forum in Nandi county on Friday, admitted that subsistence farming has been of less economic significance in the country and urged farmers to shift to cash crops, which have high demand and are sustainable.

"Coffee is now a lucrative cash crop and we have developed a synergised working framework with the counties focused on supporting farmers to scale up coffee production. More farmers need to be mobilised to adopt cash crops than subsistence farming," he said.

The CS noted that the government's Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) aligned to Vision 2030 highlights areas of specialisation including value chain in the agriculture sector, and called on counties to expedite the establishment of production infrastructures in the coffee growing zones. 

"Value addition will boost the production and quality of our local produce, and the government has earmarked various coffee milling centers to support farmers," he said.

He raised concern over low coffee production despite the country having potential areas feasible for farming.

"We are looking forward to working with the counties including Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Elgeiyo Marakwet in mobilising locals to grow cash crops rather than depending on subsistence farming. The programme will include offering coffee seedlings to locals as a startup," said Chelugui. 

Nandi Governor Stephen Sang said that locals abandoned coffee farming in the region due to poor management of the cooperative societies and market for the produce. 

"We look forward to operationalising the coffee milling plant to support farmers and enhance value addition in the production chain. We welcome the government development framework that is set to rejuvenate the coffee sector that had been struggling with a myriad of challenges,” he said. 

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