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February 21, 2019

Kenya plans to expand coffee farming

A woman picks coffee berries at the Paradise Lost coffee farm in Kiambu. Photo/File
A woman picks coffee berries at the Paradise Lost coffee farm in Kiambu. Photo/File

The government is planning to expand coffee farming in the country.

The increase will be done to the non-tradition coffee growing regions of North Rift, Nyanza and Western Kenya.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Dr Richard Lesiyampe confirmed that in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 crop years, new 3,500 hectares have been planted with Batian and Ruiru 11 coffee varieties.

"We have managed to increase area under coffee to 113,500 hectares from 109,795 ha since 2013/14 crop year,” said Lesiyampe.

New coffee regions have emerged as traditional regions mostly in Mount Kenya region face threat of encroachment of real estates and emergence of new economic ventures such as horticulture farming.

He made the remarks in a speech read on his behalf by Director of Crops in the ministry of agriculture Dr Johnson Irungu during the second National Coffee Conference and the 10th Ruiru Coffee Fair held at the Coffee Research Institute in Kiambu county.

"The institute through the European Union funded initiative —  Coffee Productivity Project — is expanding the area under coffee production in potential areas by enhancing access to improved coffee planting materials and providing technical information. Notably, the project has granted more than Sh75 million to 28 coffee nursery operators in 28 counties so that they can enhance capacity to propagate coffee seedlings nearer the farmers,” Lesiyampe added.

He noted that since early 1990s to 2010/11 crop year, area under coffee has declined by 35 per cent from 170,000 hectares to 109, 795 hectares.

The PS said the destabilisation in the industry led to sharp drop of production from 129,000 metric tonnes in 1987/88 crop year to below 50,000 metric tonnes to date.

According to the International Coffee Organization, Kenya has recorded a steady decline in production as average production since 2000/01 has fallen below 800,000 bags compared to 1.5 million bags from 1970/71 to 1999/2000 crop years.

"As new coffee frontiers continue emerging consideration needs to be concentrated on boosting yield per tree. Currently the national average production per tree has increased to three kilogrammes per tree in the current crop year from two kilogrammes three years ago,” said CRI director Dr Elijah Gichuru.

He advised farmers to plant shade trees which are compatible with coffee and to large extent that will reduce temperatures by four percent annually in order to address issues of climate change.

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