We can't give up on coffee reforms now


Coffee farmer Charles Mitwiri with the Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua at his coffee farm at Nthimbiri village Imenti North on June 9, 2023 during the third day coffee summit in Meru county. [DPCS]

No lesser person that Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has admitted that the Kenya Kwanza government has been cornered by coffee cartels and there seems to be no hope for the farmer. Given the role of reforming the coffee sector in the beginning of the new administration, the DP vowed to take on the few individuals, who have held the sector to ransom for decades, and reaping handsomely from the seat of thousands of peasant farmers.

The DP promised to run the greedy coffee buyers out of town and ensure all farmers earn their rightful share from the precious commodity. He held several meetings with coffee stakeholders, including a major conference in Meru County, where hundreds of participants shared numerous proposals to streamline the sector.

He also warned that the profiteers had infiltrated the government and have been spreading falsehoods over the current reforms in the sector. What was more disconcerting is his revelation that the cartels are just about three of four individuals who buy all Kenyan coffee at a throw-away price then sell it exorbitantly to make a killing.

He also claimed the cartels had approached him and the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary and tried to persuade them to stop enforcing new measures. He claimed the cartels offered him Sh7 billion which he refused and vowed to go ahead with the reforms. Now, that is not lose change, which demonstrates the war at hand in trying to reform the sector.

Among the proposed changes include a rule that advocates for one man, one job. This is where you cannot be a marketer and a miller at the same time, which the cartels have vehemently opposed. Private millers on the other hand claim the reforms will kill their businesses and they will be forced to lay off workers.

This is the time for sober, honest and genuine deliberations among the farmer, miller, marketer and the government. It can be done for the benefit of all stakeholders.