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Kenyan coffee regaining glory after sector reforms - report

The country has one of the best coffees in the world, highly sought by roasters for blending with lower quality beans from other regions

In Summary
  • The country's coffee production went down 35 per cent in the last 50 years as farmers shunned from growing the crop.
  • This year various reforms have been put in place in the sector through the Coffee Bill 2021, bringing back the commodity's lost glory.
A coffee farmer
A coffee farmer
Image: FILE

Kenya has been known globally for its quality coffee over the years, but mismanagement and low returns saw the sector lose its value.

According to the latest Commodity Markets Outlook by the World Bank, the country's coffee production dropped 35 per cent in the last 50 years as farmers kept off the crop.

In 1970, the country used to sell almost a million 60kg bags of coffee, in the 1980s this hit more than 1.5million bags and the commodity was one of the country's top foreign exchange earners.

According to the outlook, coffee production dropped to 650,000 bags in 2020/21.

In 2019/20 the country produced 725,000bags while in 2018/19 it produced 775,000 bags.

This year various reforms have been put in place in the sector through the Coffee Bill 2021, and this is seemingly bringing back the commodity's lost glory.

The reforms put in place by President Uhuru have rescued smallholder farmer from the yoke of cartels, right from the local factory level, all the way to the coffee auction.

The coffee farmers are now getting better and much deserved earnings from their hardwork with better payouts.

Data from the Nairobi Coffee Exchange shows coffee prices at the auction opened 2021 on a high note.

A 50-kilogramme bag fetched Sh35,970 in January from Sh34,000 recorded in the last sale of 2020.

This saw coffee earnings grow by 92 per cent at the end of February 2021 compared with the corresponding month last year as good price.

This saw the crop earn Kenya Sh8.7 billion in February, up from Sh4.5 billion that was realised in the same time last year.

In March, the commodity earned Kenya Sh11.2 billion , compared to Sh6.7 billion that was realised in March 2020.

Daniel Kibanya , a farmer from Inoi in Kerugoya was happy with the Sh97 per kilo he earned earned in the period.

He says the factory in the region is gradually regaining it’s lost glory after years of mismanagement by the previous management.

“Whatever we got this season can be attributed to the board that was disbanded .We hope the next season will hit a high of even Sh110 shillings per kilo since the current management has exhibited commitment to transform members welfare that will lead to a better pay ,”he said.

Albert Mathangani, 84, has been a coffee farmer since the 1980s. He says he had almost lost hope in coffee but the recent reforms are encouraging..

“This farm has been with my family for ages therefore it was really hard for me to uproot all the coffee but low returns were almost leading me that direction, with the sector reforms now we are back on track,” said Mathangani.

In the reforms, Uhuru also established a $30 million dollar revolving fund to cushion over the 700,000 small-holder coffee farmers from bottlenecks including delayed payment s and a high production cost.

The Ministry of Agriculture in a bid to reduce processing losses have installed digital weighing scales installed for accurate readings, modern drying benches built and alarms installed to curb rising coffee theft.

Kenya has one of the best coffees in the world, highly sought by roasters for blending with lower quality beans from other regions.