Mt Kenya coffee farmers urge gov’t to weed out cartels, brokers for sector to thrive
Coffee farmers in the Mount Kenya region want control of the sector, especially marketing of the crop under their grip to end exploitation by sector players.
This comes ahead of the three-day coffee conference in Meru that will be led by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.
The farmers have expressed optimism that their woes will come to an end if the Kenya Kwanza government will address the issues affecting the coffee sector thus leaving the farmers with poor pay, despite the Kenyan coffee being the most sought after due to its unique taste and quality.
Joseph Mukua, the chairman of Ndaro-ini coffee factory in Mathira which has been paying farmers Ksh100 per kilo of raw cherry delivered for a record nine years, says that long marketing chains in the sector have denied farmers their rightful pay over the years.
"The only way the government can assist the coffee farmers to get better pay for their produce is by reducing the market chain and encouraging direct sales of their coffee from the farmer to the buyer without involving brokers," Mukua said.
He said the farmers should be connected to the buyers abroad and be allowed to negotiate directly with the coffee roasters.
Mukua said the sector does not need funds to stabilize the prices saying that the major reason why poor pay is recorded is due to involvement of coffee brokers who end up benefitting instead of the farmer.
Sarafina Waruguru, a coffee farmer from Mathira, says they have strong faith in the deputy president spearheading the efforts of bettering the coffee industry as he hails from coffee growing region and therefore understands the woes of the farmers first-hand.
"We have great faith in our deputy president as he understands our woes better and we are going to support him fully in this journey towards bettering the coffee sector, we also would want to urge him to involve the farmers more than the experts as they are the ones who understand the problems facing them better," Waruguru said.
Break coffee broker chain
Mukurweini Member of Parliament John Kaguchia, on his part, says the long brokers' chains in the sector need to be broken and farmers allowed to market their crops directly.
"As Kenya Kwanza administration our clarion call is "bottom-up" that is geared at putting money in people's pockets. We know that brokers and cartels must be phased out. We also know that direct marketing through unions must be put in place and allow farmers to do value addition, we want all this to be in laws governing this sector and that is what we will be pushing when we go to Meru" he said.
The conference whose aim is to improve the lives of coffee farmers is convened by the office of deputy president Rigathi Gachagua and will run for three days.