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Coffee players take on uphill task of shoring up production

As ICO holds its weeklong maiden meeting in Kenya, NICHOLAS WAITATHU explores various strategies stakeholders are applying to increase output to 100,000 tonnes

Coffee value chain players face a tough task of increasing production in Kenya from the current 50,000 tonnes to more than 100,000 tonnes in the medium term.

Value chain players yesterday told the International Coffee Organisation meeting in Nairobi that based on current measures being fast-tracked, output is expected to increase by more than 100 per cent by 2022.

Coffee Sub-sector Implementation Committee (CSIC) chairman Joseph Kieyah said the government is pursuing bold measures .

“In the next three years our focus is geared towards implementing a subsidy programme that will provide cheap fertiliser to farmers. Further, the approach will enhance extension services and provide climate smart varieties,” said Kieyah.

Bold measures

Fast-tracking the proposals, Kieyah said, will help increase productivity to about 10 kilogrammes from the current 2kgs per coffee bush.

In some counties some farmers are producing between 20 and 40kgs per tree. Kenya coffee industry is facing its lowest production despite the government and other value chain actors implementing various reforms for the last three decades.

The government allocated Sh1 billion to purchase subsidised fertiliser in the 2018/19 financial year for the coffee sub-sector.

The Sh1 billion, according to Parliament, has been hived off the Sh4.3 billion allocated to fertiliser subsidy in the agriculture sector in the financial year 2018/19.

Subsidised fertiliser

Kieyah’s committee is pushing for allocation of more than Sh7.2 billion to finance revival of the coffee industry in the next three years.

The money will help hundreds of thousands of coffee growers access subsidised fertiliser as part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s revival plan of the country’s once leading foreign exchange earner.

Kieyah made the remarks during a panel on coffee sustainability at the 124th ICO meeting at KICC. Coffee production has been oscillating at between 40,000 tonnes and 50,000 tonnes for the last decade.

Kenya, Kieyah said, has the potential to produce more than 300,000 tonnes but the highest it has ever achieved is 128,926 tonnes in 1987/88 coffee year.

Since then production has dropped to below 50,000 tonnes. Equally area under coffee has decreased to around 114,500 hectares currently from 170,000Ha in 1987/88 coffee production year.

Traditional coffee-growing regions in Mt Kenya, Kiambu, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Meru and Embu, have been converted into real estate, dairy farms and horticulture.

ICO executive director Jose Sette said the institution is mobilising stakeholders to ensure efficient production.

Efficient production

“Owing to developing dynamics like population growth and effects of climate change, coffee players need to adopt efficient production,” said Sette.

Agriculture principal secretary Hamadi Boga said lack of farm inputs mainly fertiliser and finance has been a big setback to coffee farming in the country.

“To achieve a full revival of the coffee industry, provision of adequate finance in the industry is crucial as well as taming increasing poverty among farmers. Equally, lack of adequate and affordable farm inputs have led to low production and poor quality of the cash crop,” said Boga.

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