Counties in Kenya seek say in coffee marketing

Governors from coffee-growing counties are pushing for control of the sector’s marketing process.

The county chiefs want the national government to surrender powers to licence marketers to them.

Council of Governors (CoG) Agriculture Committee chairman Nderitu Gachagua said they also want a say in coffee milling.

Should they have their way, farmers are likely to benefit from increased direct sales of coffee in international markets. Today, this is not possible due to numerous licences and the bureaucracy involved.

Yesterday, Gachagua, who is also the Nyeri Governor, said for the coffee farmers’ fortunes to improve, licensing should be eased by giving county governments powers to issue the permits. After all, he added, agriculture is a devolved function.

“A team has since been appointed, comprising officials from CoG and the national government to address the issue, which we feel is weighing farmers down,” the governor revealed. 

Already, there is a matter in court where governors are challenging the implementation of a Kenya Gazette supplement legal notice by the Ministry of Agriculture that enacted the coffee (general) regulations 2016.

As a result of the case, national and county governments and Agriculture and Food Authority cannot issue licences.

Speaking to a delegation from the Estonian government, Mr Gachagua said CoG wanted the issue fast-tracked to enable societies dealing in coffee to benefit from direct sales to the European market.

Facilitate grading

“The county government was willing to facilitate grading, milling, value addition and marketing to increase volumes and enhance direct sales as opposed to auction,” Gachagua explained.

Farmers were caught in between the wrangles between the devolved units and the national government.

According to Othaya Farmers Co-operative society chairman James Nderitu, the role of issuing licences was formerly the sole function of the Coffee Directorate.

Some of the licences include Marketing Agent’s Licence, Coffee Miller’s Licence, Pulping Station Licence, Ware houseman Licence and coffee dealers licences, coffee nursery certificate and roasters.

However, the task force appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta to look into the woes facing the sub-sector recommended that both the national and the county governments undertake licensing of the produce.

The CoG was among the first agencies to seek legal redress over the implementation of the new rules arguing that they were not consulted before the regulations were gazetted.

The county bosses argued agriculture was a fully devolved function under the Constitution and that they had to be consulted on any matter relating to the sector.