Coffee reforms must bear fruit for farm**s

Friday, April 5th, 2024 06:00 | By
Coffee farmer. PHOTO/Print
Coffee farmer. PHOTO/Print

The ongoing reforms in the coffee sector have produced mixed results, highlighting the need for further action to ensure farmers reap its benefits.

Despite efforts by the Kenya Kwanza administration to address longstanding challenges in the sector, progress has been limited, with entrenched cartels resisting change.

While successive administrations have acknowledged the role of the cartels in the sector’s decline, little has been done to dismantle them and empower genuine farmers.

The consequences of this situation are evident, with many farmers abandoning coffee cultivation due to low earnings. This affects over 800,000 farmers and five million employees.

The prevailing system, which favours middlemen and cartel members, deprives farmers of fair returns for their produce, perpetuating the cycle of poverty despite the high potential of the crop.

That is why despite a year of reforms spearheaded by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, progress in improving farmers’ livelihoods has been slow, with stakeholders still uncertain about their roles amid resistance from vested interests.

The issue of receiving payments in shillings while coffee is sold in dollars underscores a deep disparity in the sector. The currency misalignment is a reminder of the power dynamics that currently disadvantage farmers. This misfortune reflects a systemic problem that needs rectification.

Concerns such as delayed payments and inadequate access to critical information must be swiftly addressed. Delays in payment processing and information dissemination not only hinder farmers’ ability to make informed decisions but also waste valuable resources in an era dominated by information and communication technology.

 The issues surrounding the Direct Settlement System, including delays in remitting payments to farmers’ accounts, constitute a violation of regulations mandating prompt payment within five days of transaction conclusion.

 While the reforms present opportunities for farmers, they also pose challenges, particularly in implementing new systems. To address these challenges, the government must prioritize training for farmers, empowering them to navigate legal requirements and conduct their businesses effectively. Moves like opening dollar accounts and adopting best practices would be good steps towards a future where the toil of farmers is rewarded.

Ultimately, to enhance farmers’ earnings, they must play a more active role in post-production processes, ensuring their coffee commands better value.

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