|A farmer inspects a coffee bush. Farmers in Nyeri have formed Kenya Coffee Producers Association, an umbrella body to shield them from unscrupulous dealers. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]|
By MUNENE KAMAU
Kenya: Kenya Coffee Producers Association, an umbrella body formed to address the myriad of problems farmers have faced for years, could soon spell the end of cartels and commercial millers.
If the move succeeds, it will see the end of the controversial coffee auction and send packing cartels that have thrived at the expense of coffee farmers over the years.
The association says it has identified centralisation of the crop produced in every county, processing, value addition and subsequent marketing as the ultimate solution, which could translate to Sh100 per kilogramme of cherry as payment to farmers.
According to chairman Mr Kamande Gitau, coffee farmers should from now henceforth start producing, processing into parchment and then mill, before branding and marketing directly to consumers abroad.
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He urged farmers to take advantage of devolution and start value addition of their crop in order to lock out middlemen.
“Once you brand your commodity as Kirinyaga County Coffee, it will be exported with that brand name to the international market of your choice and the returns will trickle down to the farmer without being subjected to the lengthy marketing chain anymore,” the official said.
He said there would be no room for exploitation by commercial millers and brokers.
Gitau further pointed an accusing finger at private millers for the rampant theft of the crop since the sector was liberalised in 1998.
“I am glad that some farmers like in Othaya and Murang’a have already built their own mills, thereby freeing themselves from the many years of exploitation by multinationals. I am urging others in the remaining coffee producing areas to follow suit,” Gitau said.
Addressing coffee Co-operative leaders from Kirinyaga County at the Kerugoya Catholic Hall yesterday, the official also accused the Coffee Board of Kenya (CBK) for allegedly receiving levies from farmers yet it operates from their premises in Nairobi.
“It is amazing that CBK, which is the regulator of this multibillion shilling industry, has continued to occupy and operate from Wakulima House which is owned by Kenya Planters Co-operative Union that belongs to farmers and does not pay any rent at all,” noted Gitau.
He blamed CBK for allegedly favouring commercial millers and multinationals at the expense of farmers who toil for many years without ripping any benefits.
The association has further urged farmers to develop a culture of coffee consumption, which would lead to increased sales in the local market.
He said the 40 million Kenyan population could easily sustain the coffee market locally without exports, as long as a drinking culture of the commodity was adopted.
Kirinyaga County coffee farmers have since set aside Sh100 million to put up their own mill near Kimicha market, according to District Coffee Co-operative Union chairman Mr Kiragu Ngari.
Ngari said machinery has been ordered from Malaysia and is expected to be docked at the port of Mombasa by early October.
He said the move was a clear signal that coffee farmers would never have their commodity delivered to any miller, thereby bring to an end the years of exploitation.
“As from next year, the coffee business in Kirinyaga County will solely be conducted by the people and for the people of the County,” he declared.
Gitau said he had proposed for an urgent meeting between his organisation and area Governor Joseph Ndathi meant to operationalise resolutions agreed upon during yesterday’s meeting.