Over 700,000 small-scale and large-scale farmers are involved in coffee farming benefitting over about 5 million people in the country.
Coffee farming has contributed immensely to the Gross Domestic Product in the country, generating employment opportunities and boosting foreign exchange through exportation. The coffee sector in Kenya was beaming with success. Production volumes were rising so were prices and ultimate earnings for farmers.
Today the coffee sector is in shambles, overshadowed by its rivals in the region. Production has stagnated while farmers’ earnings are poor and very unstable.
Kenya still exports about 90 per cent of its coffee through the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE), with the remainder sold directly. Coffee farmers have an option of selling their coffee directly to international buyers, or they could contract and authorise their marketing agents to sell through the weekly auctions on the NCE. However, marketing through the NCE remains inactive as farmers prefer dealing with brokers.
The middlemen, key players in the market, have taken advantage of coffee farmers, manipulating prices and quality in the market which has crippled coffee farming business and forced some farmers to opt out.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for the urgent removal of all barriers that hinder coffee farmers from reaping maximum profits from the cash crop.
The President said that lack of proper regulations had given room for brokers to benefit from coffee at the expense of hardworking farmers, interfering with coffee production that has been a major foreign exchange earner in the country.
“Coffee is one of Kenya’s key cash crops but unfortunately it has been facing challenges. There is need to streamline the sector so that farmers can benefit,” President Kenyatta said.
President Kenyatta was speaking during a meeting with the International Coffee Organization (ICO) Executive Director José Sette who paid him a courtesy call at State House, Nairobi.
The task force appointed in 2016, is yet to realize the recommendations to address the challenges.