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By Moses Muoki
Nairobi — The Ministry of Agriculture has embarked on a Sh1.5 billion coffee revitalization plan that will focus on eight counties that account for 70 percent of coffee production in the country.
While launching the program Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives Peter Munya said the government’s focus is on improving the production and quality of the coffee in the country which has been on a steady decline.
The program will be funded by a concessional loan from the World Bank and will be upscaled to the rest of the country by September.
“We are focusing on improving production and quality of coffee in the country. It will involve the revival of coffee farming, training and supporting farmers with quality seeds, extension services, refurbishing of coffee factories and mills, improving storage and sourcing of markets, ” he said.
Phase one of the project will target Machakos, Kiambu, Muranga, Kirinyaga, Nyeri , Embu , Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties.
Kenya’s coffee production currently stands at 40,000 metric tonnes annually from an all-time high of 140,000 metric tonnes with the government hoping to raise production to 100,000 metric tonnes annually.
The Ministry of Agriculture officers have been tasked with identifying bottlenecks in coffee production in each county and offer a tailor-made solution to the farmers.
Automating commodity auctions
At the same time, the Cabinet Secretary directed that all traders in the Coffee exchange and Tea auctions to embrace technology and automate within two months or lose their licenses.
Middlemen and brokers have been cited as a stumbling block to the sourcing of better prices and international markets for the products due to the lack of transparency and accountability in the trade.
“These directives have been given in the past but have not been complied with. Part of price discovery and transparency in commodity trading are brought by technology and you will always find a lot of resistance. if you are aided by technologies you cannot cut corners,” he said. After two months if they have not digitalized they will not be given licenses. “
In January President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a raft of measures geared towards governance of the tea, milk and coffee sectors in the country after perennial losses to farmers and infiltration of the trades by cartel, brokers and middlemen.