A farmer attending to a coffee bush in his farm. PHOTO. FILE

All is set for the Coffee Stakeholders Conference that will be hosted by Deputy president Rigathi Gachagua in Meru starting Thursday.

The three-day conference at Three Steers Hotel will bring together county governors, national government officials, farmers and coffee sector players to come up with key reforms for the sub sector.

DP Gachagua has been spearheading reforms in coffee and tea and has promised to pluck out cartels who are said to be impoverishing the farmer.

The conference is being held in Meru at a time farmers say they were short changed when the government took over Kenya Planters’ Cooperative Union (KPCU) where their shares are held.

Appealed to the government to hand over the New KPCU mill

The coffee farmers have appealed to the government to hand over the New KPCU mill to them since they contributed shares worth Sh600 million to the defunct KPCU.

Officials during a visit at KPCU mill in a past event. Meru farmers want government to give back new KPCU

Meru County is one of the major coffee producers in the country and farmers were among the first Africans to grow coffee when the colonialists, in 1933, allowed an experiment of coffee cultivation in Kisii, Embu and Meru.

Since then, coffee has contributed to major developments in Meru until production dropped in the 1970s.

The conference comes amid high expectations among farmers that the government would fix coffee production and marketing challenges.

According to coffee cooperative leaders in Meru, key expectations from the conference include commitment by the government to provide coffee inputs subsidy, provision of extension officers, rehabilitation of coffee factories, timely payment of farmers, as well as opening up of the lucrative coffee market.

According to Meru Central Coffee Cooperative Union (MCCCU) Chairman Ephantus Majau, they expect the government to commit to enforcement of the Coffee regulations 2019 which introduced a raft of reforms in the sub sector.

“As a cooperative movement across the country, we are in support of the coffee regulations 2019 because they favour the farmer. It regulates the management of coffee proceeds to ensure the farmer is paid in time. It also allows societies to sell their coffee directly without going to the auction,” Majau said.

He said another expectation farmers have of the DP Gachagua led conference include introduction of guaranteed minimum return for coffee.

“Currently, farmers do not know how much they will earn from their coffee. A guaranteed minimum return should take into consideration the production cost.”

“Another reform we want is to have clarity on ownership of the coffee after the farmer gives it to the factory. Currently, the coffee belongs to the farmer until it is sold at the auction. This exposes the farmer to many risks.”

“There is a need for a change where the farmer is paid at least 80 percent as they wait for the sale. The balance and any extra income can be paid after the sale,” he suggested.

The MCCCU chairman also said the ministry of agriculture should empower coffee unions to access subsidised farm inputs on behalf of farmers.

“Since coffee is a key foreign income earner, we expect the government to also get actively involved in looking for markets,” Majau said.


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