Factories closing down as production declines
By Boniface Gikandi | March 4th 2019
Dwindling coffee production has seen some factories close down after being unable to sustain operations.
Six factories affiliated to Iyego Co-operative Society have been converted to collection centres as a way to reduce operational costs.
The closed factories include Nginda, Kariguini, Gikiuga, Kahaini and Irembu.
Reports indicate that the factories were operating below capacity, forcing the management to close them down.
In the past two years, factory employees have had to contend with delayed salaries, some for months.
Kiawanduma coffee factory, which split from Rwaikamba Co-operative Society, has set up coffee collection centres to ease transport burden for farmers.
“We started three years ago and presently production from members is above 600,000kg, with hope to attain our processing capacity of 1.2 million kilogrammes.
A former chairman of coffee farmers in Mt Kenya region Joseph Mburu Kamande said challenges in the coffee sector had pushed many farmers to other crops.
Kamande, a member at Karurumo factory in Maragua, said poor marketing was one of the biggest challenges facing the sector.
“In the past 20 years, production has been on the decline, a trend that can be reversed if there are concerted efforts to rehabilitate coffee farms,” said Kamande.
Iyego Co-operative Society chairman Rowland Ndegwa said the firm had sought the services of experts to train farmers on how to tend their crop to increase production.
“We had to reduce operational costs to match with coffee production. That does not mean that we have closed the factory,” said Ndegwa.
County cooperative chief officer Bernard Wanyoike downplayed the closure of the factories, saying coffee production was on the rise.
He said an inspection had been conducted in all the factories and that a report on their status would be released soon.
“The number of closed factories is not as high as alleged, there are 144 active factories in the county. Only a few have closed,” said Wanyoiki, adding that there were elaborate mechanisms being undertaken to revive the sector.
At the same time, Governor Mwangi wa Iria said he had requested the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to conduct forensic audit of all coffee factories to seal coffee theft loopholes.
Speaking during thr burial of Mzee Thayu Kamau Kabugi at Gitui village in Murang’a, the governor said that farmers who benefited from a Sh1.2 billion debt waiver were now facing another financial crisis.
Coffee theft, he said was a complicated syndicate that affected small-scale farmers and required in-depth investigations to arrest the culprits.
The governor appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene.
“Mr President I am seeking assistance to unearth the rot in the sector. Murang’a Farmers Cooperative Union (Mugama) which got part of the waiver had planned to sell off a building in Thika town at Sh300 million,” said the governor.
The county government has moved to court to stop the sale.
According to the governor, poor prices are not to blame for the woes of the coffee sector, but mismanagement at the factory level.
“There is corruption at the lower level as a lot of attention is focused on the big offices,” said Mwangi.
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