Coffee production in the country has dropped by 66 per cent in the last 30 years as most coffee farms are turned to Real estates.
According to Kenya Coffee Subsector Implementation Committee, the production declined from 130,000 Metric Tonnes in 1987/88 coffee year to around 40,500 MT currently produced .
The committee chairman Joseph Kieyah observed that the sharp decline is more severe in small scale farmers with yield per tree declining to two kilogrammes against a potential of more than 30 kilogrammes.
“The area under coffee has equally over the years declined sharply hence leading to the general output decrease. In 1987/88 production year area under coffee was around 170,000 hectares but declined to 114,000 hectares ha in 2015/16 crop year,” Kieyah said.
The area under coffee farming has been further affected by the Government's ambitious infrastructure development programme, for example, construction of roads and water projects.
Most of the prime coffee growing regions in Mt. Kenya region –Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu and Meru counties have been converted into real estates, horticultural and dairy farming.
Ironically, counties in North Rift, Nyanza, and Western Kenya have emerged as the new coffee regions.
Trade data from the International Coffee Organisation, Kenya is position four in Africa in terms of production after Ethiopia, Uganda and Cote d’Ivoire.
Kenya produced 790,000 bags of clean coffee in 2016/17 compared to 1.5 million bags, 5.12 million bags and 7.6 million bags sold by Cote D’Ivoire, Uganda and Ethiopia respectively the same period.
Ethiopia consumes more than half of its total production while Uganda is the leading exporter in Africa at 4.6 million bags annually.
Compared to other African coffee growing countries Kieyah explained Kenya is lagging behind in terms of production. For example, between 2014 and 2017 Kenya recorded a 3.2 per cent production growth compared to 36 per cent in Uganda, 17.6 per cent in Rwanda, 16.3 per cent in Ethiopia and 12.3 percent in Africa.
Despite low production, the International Coffee Organisation notes that Kenya’s coffee beans are still rated the best at the world market.
“Despite producing less volume, Kenya coffee is highly sought and equally fetching the highest prices in the world market. I urge Kenya coffee stakeholders to work together with a view to increasing output for the benefit of the small scale farmers,” ICO executive director Jose Sette said during the 16th African Fine Coffee Conference and Exhibition held in Uganda last week.
Kenya coffee is classified among the Colombian milds or fine Arabica coffee that fetches the highest prices in the world market. Other countries that enjoy this type of coffee include Colombia and Tanzania respectively.