Coffee farmers in bid to participate at auctions

Kipkelion West Member of Parliament Hillary Koskei. [File, Standard]

More than 9,000 coffee farmers under the Kipkelion District Cooperative Union (KDCU) have petitioned the Nairobi Coffee Exchange to allow them a chance to trade at the auction.

The union's chairman Mathew Bore said although they have a trading license, NCE was yet to issue them with lot numbers and codes for their coffee. NCE is mandated to manage coffee central auctions in the country.

"Nairobi Coffee Exchange doesn't allow Kipkelion District Cooperative Union to trade at the auction yet we have the license. The union is allowed to sell its coffee to other countries but we are not allowed to trade in Kenya. Does it even make sense?" he said.

Bore added: "There is no reason why we have to sell our coffee through a broker while we can manage it ourselves. All the unions must be allowed to sell their coffee at the NCE. As coffee producers, we should be the ones trading with the buyers," he said.

The fight for the union to trade at the NCE follows the successful direct coffee sale of 134.4 metric tonnes of AA and AB coffee grade to South Korean company, Good Beans.

The historic sale earned 10,000 farmers under the Union Sh105 million.

On his part, Kericho Governor Erick Mutai reiterated that his administration will through the Council of Governors (CoG) push for the farmers to trade at the coffee exchange.

"The Ministry of Agriculture and Nairobi Coffee Exchange must partner with us and ensure that farmers have a direct market for their produce," he said.

Kipkelion West MP Hillary Koskei further petitioned on Agriculture Cabinet Secretary nominee Mithika Linturi to ensure that coffee farmers can participate in the auction as his first task once Parliament clears him.

Speaking during an event to mark the International Coffee Day marked at the KDCU mill in Fort-Ternan in the Kipkelion West Constituency, Dr Mutai said that his administration will assist the farmers by constructing a mega warehouse at the mill.

"We are also going to provide an Sh20 million coffee roaster machine and enable the farmers to package their coffee right at the mill and sell it at the local and international market," he said.

Mutai also said his administration will supply farmers with 1.5 million certified coffee seedlings. "Some 4,500 farmers from 15 wards in the county will get the seedlings free of charge in the county's mission to make the regions they come from coffee zones," he said.

Campaign to encourage

During the event, the governor announced a campaign to encourage Kericho residents to start taking coffee from KDCU other than only tea. "I have directed that coffee be brewed and served twice a week right from my office down to those of sub-county administrators and other county offices," he said.

Coffee Directorate Director Enosh Akuma in a speech delivered by Dr Benson Apuoyo, lauded Kericho farmers for their coffee production which had moved the county from position 15 in 2008 to its current position five after Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, and Murang'a County.

Akuma pointed out that coffee prices are above international coffee commodity prices giving Kenya and coffee-producing counties such as Kericho an enormous comparative advantage in the production, value addition, and export of high-quality produce.

"This cushions the rural population from the effects of high inflation caused by microeconomic factors," he said.

In Kenya, three million cups of coffee are consumed daily.