MERU, KENYA: Meru County Coffee Union (Maccu) has started own mill at Chaaria in Central Imenti months after being evicted from the old Kenya Planters Cooperative Union mill in Meru town.
The Maccu Chairman Zablon Mbaabu claimed they were forcefully evicted from the Meru town mill, but will start milling coffee from farmers this month at the new location.
Mr Mbaabu said farmers affiliated to it had started delivering their coffee at Chaaria.
“We had over 70 percent of coffee cooperative societies in Meru. Our milling was disrupted after we were chased away. But by good luck we got a godown at Chaaria. We have installed the milling equipment,” Mbaabu said.
He said before the eviction they were milling up to 40, 000 bags (in 50kg bags) of parchment annually.
He said they are encouraged by the good quantities of coffee they are receiving from farmers in different parts of the region.
“We will start the milling soon, this month. But we cannot take it to the market now because of prevailing low prices. We will start selling in October when prices stabilise,” he said.
But New KPCU and agriculture ministry officials said the KPCU is the farmers’ best bet, because it has the backing of the national government which is offering farmers more assistance.
New KPCU chair Henry Kinyua, during a tour of the mill, assured farmers the agency was in talks with the Coffee Research Institute, to provide seedlings to farmers in need.
Farmers will all have access to a Sh3 billion advance fund, and inputs, Mr Kinyua, who was flanked by national government administrators and ministry officials, said.
Kinyua said a laboratory had been installed at the facility, for quality purposes.
He said the mill’s charges were friendly, as it will cost farmers only Sh4 to mill a kilogram.
Reacting to the Maccu plan to start their mill, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said farmers were free to deliver coffee to the mill of their choice.
“Let them start. It is a free market and competition is the rule of the game. Competition is healthy. Farmers should have alternatives to choose from,” CS Munya said.
The CS said as part of the coffee sector reforms and transformation, the national government registered the New KPCU with a mandate to receive, warehouse, mill and market coffee for and on behalf of coffee farmers and their cooperative societies.
Also, the New KPCU has been given the additional mandate of managing, administering and advancing the Coffee Cherry Advance Revolving Fund, he said.
Charles Mutwiri of Mukarimu Coffee Estate who previously delivered to Maccu is one of those who have jumped ship.
“I am now with New KPCU, because I know the government offers better security. They want to revive coffee sector and as one of the biggest coffee farmers in Meru, I want to be on the side of government,” Mr Mutwiri said.