• Murango accused the agency of introducing middlemen who have been blamed for frustrating coffee farmers to the point of uprooting the crop.
• This comes after the state agency approved four coffee firms to act as agents to facilitate direct sales of the cash crop.
A Senate committee now wants the Agriculture and Food Authority disbanded for allegedly being an impairment to the ongoing reforms in the coffee subsector.
The Agriculture committee said AFA has been frustrating the transformations initiated in the critical sector by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.
Kirinyaga Senator James Murango, who chairs the committee, accused the authority of exploiting gaps in the Crops Act, 2013 to frustrate farmers.
Murango accused the agency of introducing middlemen who have been blamed for frustrating coffee farmers to the point of uprooting the crop.
This comes after the state agency approved four coffee firms to act as agents to facilitate direct sales of the cash crop.
They are Sustainable Management Services, Kenya Cooperative Coffee Exporters Limited, Iceberg Movers Enterprise Limited and Coffee Management Services.
However, the committee has rejected the move to approve the four companies, accusing AFA of misusing its licensing powers.
“AFA should be disbanded because they have become a roadblock in all reforms in the agricultural sector and that is why everyone is running away from them,” Murango said.
He said that they will push, through the Coffee Bill 2023, to ensure that the work of licensing such agents is taken over by the Coffee Board of Kenya.
The Bill seeks to streamline the coffee subsector and ensure farmers’ earnings are increased.
The Bill establishes a direct settlement system that will see farmers receive their money as soon as their produce is sold.
It also seeks to incorporate a minimum guaranteed return to cushion farmers against poor prices occasioned by fluctuation of the dollar.
Further, the proposed law establishes a police unit that will be charged with the responsibility of guarding coffee in the factory to stem theft.
Senator Murango said despite the authority being the umbrella regulatory body of former regulatory institutions in the agricultural sector, it has become a roadblock to reforms in the sector because of the “rogue nature of its operations”.
“Once we pass the Coffee Bill, licensing will go to the Coffee Board. This will ensure that if one is a registered owner of a milling facility then they will not be granted a buyer or marketer's licence,” he said.
Coffee Board of Kenya is a governmental parastatal tasked with formulation of policies and rules that regulate and develop the coffee industry in Kenya, registration and licensing of coffee value chain players as well as marketing coffee products to the outside world.
The Agriculture committee chairperson said a firm should not be allowed to be both a coffee miller and marketer if they are not growers.
However, he accused the authority of circumventing the law by issuing licences to certain companies to facilitate direct sale of coffee.
“These are middlemen. I don’t know why AFA is trying to fool us that they are facilitating direct sales yet they are trying to create cartels by licensing only four companies to facilitate the same,” he said.
Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua also faulted the authority for hiding behind claims that they are liberalising the coffee market through the licensing of the four firms.
“Why pretend that you are allowing for direct sales in the name of liberalising the market only to create four companies to facilitate the same?” he posed.
Embu Senator Alexander Mundigi said they will push to see into it that direct sales are only for export so that the four companies do not exploit a loophole they have been presented with by AFA.
DP Gachagua has been pushing for the revival of the Coffee Board of Kenya and the Coffee Research Institute as well as strengthening the New Kenya Planters Co-operative Union in a bid to reform the sector.