Nyeri senator Ephraim Maina has urged the government to revive the coffee sector that was once the financial backbone of Central region.
He said the industry that employs thousands of people and earns the country billions of shillings in foreign exchange is limping, threatening the livelihoods of peasant farmers.
Maina said there were few fundraisers in the region when coffee was doing well.
“Many schools and churches were built through the use of coffee money. There were few harambees,” the senator said.
He spoke in Mathaithi and Rititi PCEA churches in Mathira on Sunday during a fundraiser.
The event was to raise cash to buy a church bus for Rititi and contruct a church in Mathaithi. Deputy President William Ruto attended.
Growing debt, mismanagement, low prices and coffee hawking are some of the factors that have led to the closure of several coffee factories in Central.
The Coffee Sector Implementation Committee appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to produce a report on reviving the sector in the next two months.
The team was formed to implement the findings of a task force that recommended ways of revamping the struggling sector.
The committee is expected to coordinate and provide strategic leadership in implementation of the coffee subsector reforms.
It is also expected to develop a roadmap and action plan for the revival of coffee, focusing on production and marketing.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria has proposed a bill that seeks to ban exports of unprocessed coffee to boost farmers’ earnings.
Senator Maina supported the proposal to ban export of unprocessed coffee.
Problems in the coffee sector, he said, started after the introduction of a free market, when many cooperative societies were formed.
The legislator said there is need to present a bill in the Senate and the National Assembly that will see the cooperatives reduced and merged to form viable entities.
“Many societies are to blame for poor payment to farmers,” he said.
Kuria said coffee cartels have the tendency of either intimidating or trying to bribe those aiming to reform the sector.
“This season I will hear none of that. I’m not scared because they can neither intimidate me nor compromise me,” he said.
The legislator said there is no way a kilo of coffee in America can sell at Sh8,800 and the farmer in Kenya is getting Sh20.
Speaking at the same function, Maina urged the government to complete Karatina market. He said about Sh1 billion used to circulate in the town every month when it was operational.
“This market has taken about nine years and because you are here today, we call upon you to ensure it is operational as per the will of former President Mwai Kibaki,” he said.