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MPs to push proposed law to help coffee farmers reap more profits


Githunguri MP and chairperson of Parliamentary Coffee Caucus, Gathoni Wamuchomba with other legislators who attended the launch of the lobby at the Sarova Panafric Hotel in Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

A group of legislators from the National Assembly and the Senate has launched a caucus to lobby for coffee and tea matters.

The Parliamentary Coffee Caucus unveiled on Tuesday in Nairobi will push for the legislation of the Coffee Sub-sector Task Force Report.

"We had the tea-coffee caucus in the 12th Parliament and they had a plateful of issues to deal with that meant that some of the matters were never given the attention they deserved," said Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba, who chairs the 40-member group.

The coffee-tea caucus in the last Parliament was led by former Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, now the Trade Cabinet Secretary.

The MPs will also lobby for increased government assistance to the subsector, including inclusion into the national government input subsidy scheme. Only fertiliser enjoys State subsidy.

"Since coffee is a commodity whose price discovery could happen up to three years in advance, it offered the best prospects to pioneer the Guaranteed Minimum Reform (GMR) scheme promised by the Kenya Kwanza government," said Gatanga MP Edward Muriu who read the resolutions.

The leaders also promised to work with the National Assembly and Senate Departmental Committees on Agriculture to ensure that coffee marketing chain does not push vested interests.

Speaking at the event, the chairman of the Coffee Sub-sector Reforms Implementation Committee Joseph Keiyah said they had managed to bring some policy coherence in the subsector through publication of their report as well as the proposed coffee laws.

"We were able to midwife the first direct sale between Korean buyers and local growers, which made $1 million (about Sh121 million) fetching farmers in Kipkelion in Kericho county Sh120 per kilo of cherry," said Prof Keiyah.

He also urged the legislators to lobby for the streamlining of the Cherry Fund, saying stringent lending conditions meant that most of the Sh3 billion pumped into the kitty lay idle at a commercial bank.

Dr John Mutunga, the National Assembly Agriculture Committee chairman, pledged to work with the caucus and also ensure business interests will not get to the way of the team's work.

He said cartels in the coffee value chain were the biggest threat to the subsector.

The MPs resolved to legislate for the opening up of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange to widen the price discovery.

Francis Ngone, the chairman of National Coffee Cooperative Union, accused the previous administration of rendering voiceless players in the coffee value chain.

"This is a welcome relief coming when we had seen audits being conducted in our primary organisations because we had sided with the Coffee Reforms Task Force.

Ms Wamuchomba said they would explore a proposal by MP Nabii Nabwera to bypass the Ministry of Agriculture and the Attorney General's chambers in drafting legislation from the coffee report.

"We must use the draftsmen available in Parliament to do this legislation because we don't wish to fall into the trap the past Parliament," Mr Nabwera said.

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