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Coffee farmers in Mt Kenya set to receive a windfall


A coffee farmer affiliated with Gachatha Coffee Factory in Nyeri County. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Mt Kenya coffee farmers are set to receive a windfall driven by improved quality and increased direct sales overseas.

A number of societies and factories in Nyeri County have attributed the impressive rates being announced to the fact that over 80 per cent of coffee produce fetched premium grades.

Many of the cooperatives said good grades, increased direct sales, higher production as well as reduced operational cost have favoured farmers.

Gachatha factory chairman Peter Mathenge said over 1,500 farmers' produce translated into 90 per cent in AA, AB, BB and C grades which are mainly considered for exports.

"For the two years running now, we have managed to pay our farmers over Sh100 per kilo owing to improved quality and new access to the market through direct sales," said Mathenge.

This year, Mathenge said the factory has announced the highest payment rate in Nyeri at Sh120 compared to last year's Sh106 earnings totalling Sh90 million from 719,000 kilograms.

Last year, he said production stood at 327,000 kilogrammes which earned the factory about Sh50 million.

The acquisition of more efficient pulping machines helped improve the quality of parchment since they have a little tear on beans besides saving on water and electricity charges.

"Farmers are now producing high-quality beans as the machine does not nib or break beans during pulping, guaranteeing good quality that will fetch a premium price in the market," said the chairman.

He further attributed the favourable rates to increased direct sales overseas which he noted accounted for over 90 per cent. Only 10 per cent of the group coffee was sold through the auction.

The same was replicated in the Kiandu factory where over 1,200 farmers secured 85 per cent premium grades, with only 10 per cent of coffee being sold through the auction. Eighty per cent was sold through direct sales.

Factory chairman Kariuki Mundia pointed out that production also went up due to favourable weather conditions that saw the factory produce 609,669 kilos for the 2020/2021 season against 329,671 kilos in the last season.

Earnings from the produce, he noted, had also gone up from Sh30 million in the same period to Sh66 million.

"Production of coffee has also gone up tremendously as more and more farmers and young people are getting attracted to coffee farming," Mundia explained.

A number of other societies have announced rates of over Sh100. They include Thiriku which paid Sh110 up from Sh100 last season.

Factory chairman Karoki Waiganjo said production also shot up from 170,000 kg in 2020/21 to 305,000 earning a total of Sh39 million down from Sh20 million.

He said the factory produce was being sold directly to Trabocca BV from the Netherlands under a five-year agreement with a Sh100 per kilo minimum guarantee.

"Increased volumes and grades have worked in our favour hence impressive returns for farmers," Waiganjo observed.

Baricho farmers in Mathira chairman John Gitinga said the society paid an average of Sh105 to 7,000 members, earning almost half a billion shilling.

Kamau Kuria, the managing director of Coffee Management Service (CMS), said the global demand for the produce now stands at 172 million bags against production of 158 million bags.

"Coffee production in the world has a shortfall of 14 million bags as demand in the global market is on the rise," Kuria told The Standard.

This, Kuria noted, has led to an increase in prices for the second most traded commodity in the world.

Kuria noted that the international market is facing a severe shortage of quality Arabica coffee following drought and frostbite in Brazil, the main supplier.

"As a country, we expect good returns for farmers since our main competitor Brazil experienced drought and frost, so Kenyan farmers will reap from a bumper harvest and good quality coffee production," said Kuria.

He, however, said local production was still low at 28,000 metric tonnes, below the capacity of 128 tonnes.

"As a coffee marketing firm, we need to improve production which currently stands at 2-20kg per bush to improve on our tonnage," said Kuria.

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