Coffee farmers fault Sh3bn fund, want quality improved - Beaking Kenya News

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Sunday, 31 March 2019

Coffee farmers fault Sh3bn fund, want quality improved

farmer sorting cherries
By MWANGI MUIRURI
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Coffee players have faulted the government’s plan to set up a Sh3bn fund and instead want the sector overhauled.
While the President announced setting aside a Sh3 billion revolving fund to credit farmers at three per cent interest rate, there are those who argue that there is no point of advancing money to a dead business.
Mt Kenya region Coffee Growers Association, led by Mr Daniel Miriti, says the disparity in market returns is due to differences in amounts paid for lowland coffee and highland coffee.
“Highland coffee is acidic while lowland coffee is alkaline. The market favours acidic coffee while discriminating against the alkaline variety. Everywhere farmers have reported payments of over Sh100 per kilo, it is in the highlands while those from lowlands continue to cry of poor pay,” he said.
Mr Miriti said establishment of roasting plants will help the country enact its standardisation programme that will see all of Kenya’s coffee go into the market with quality controls.
“We are today harvesting coffee and giving it out to the market to roast and blend. We have no control on what happens in the market. We should take charge of our coffee produce all the way to the payment counter.”
He said roasting plants will make sure local coffee is blended per market demands. “We appreciate the fact that acidity is what gives coffee its brightness and its liveliness, hence the market appeal. But we also know that our highlands coffee, if consumed without blending it with alkaline one, will contravene the international health standards on acidity in foodstuff and beverages.”
Blending
He added that blending to come up with international acceptable standard products for the market should be done locally.
“It is through our roasting that we should come up with export brands. That way, we will account for all of our coffee and ratio payments are factored on amount of alkaline coffee used to bring down acidity in the processed product”.
Another front that is cited for diminishing returns in the coffee sector is low quality at factory level weighing record.
According to Murang'a Coffee Advisory Officer Paul Mutua, more than half of the coffee weighed at factory level ends up being waste.
“When you admit waste coffee at the weighing records, it means the market proceeds will be shared among those who delivered quality as well as those who delivered waste,” he said.
He said the price would hit Sh100 per kilo if factory managers put in place quality control measures at the weighing scales.
“For Instance, in Murang'a, more than half of the coffee delivered to factories in the 2017/18 harvest cycle did not leave the factory since it got filtered out as waste during the initial market preparation procedures. There is a factory that had received 20,000 kilos of coffee but what was left for the market after drying was 6,000 kilos. Proceeds of these 6,000 kilos were used to pay the additional 14,000 wasted kilos,” he said.
Theft
Mr Mutua said there are all sorts of rumours in the coffee sector on how coffee proceeds are stolen at auctions, “yet the biggest theft occurs at factory level where lazy farmers deliver waste coffee but wait to be paid from the proceeds of those who toiled and spent money to deliver quality coffee.”
“As a result, many farmers are abandoning coffee growing and embracing new ventures. For the past five years, the coffee sector in Murang’a has lost nearly 1,000 acres which have been transformed into concrete jungles as well as other agribusiness,” he said.
Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria says unpredictable payouts to farmers have been cited as the core reason why farmers are abandoning the sector.
In Kirinyaga, Governor Anne Waiguru says the county will open coffee shops in Europe to create an exclusive and lucrative market.

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