Coffee farmers in Bungoma County will now earn more for their coffee after the county government confirmed that the Bungoma Cooperative Union Coffee Mill and Mt. Elgon Cooperative Union Mill would begin milling operations in December.
Speaking to KNA the Bungoma County Executive Committee member in charge of Agriculture, Livestock and Cooperatives, Mathews Makanda said that already, the department had met with 42 Coffee Society Chairmen and Coffee buyers to put final touches towards the same.
The CEC noted that the two milling plants, at Musese and Chesikaki, would help in consolidating the county’s coffee basket and ease marketing guaranteeing farmers better prices.
The two milling plants wre expected to mill, roast, blend, process and package and market coffee from the county to national and international markets.
“It has taken some time to complete the construction works but we are now in the final stages and do expect to open the two plants next month. Coffee societies should now be ready to mill their coffee with us,” he said.
“Starting the process of milling and marketing in the county will radically change the current structure of the coffee market because the county will also be in control of the value chain,” observed Mr. Makanda
The County Chief Officer in charge of cooperatives (CO), Stella Mutsotso disclosed that international buyers from Australia have since expressed interest to buy the milled coffee.
They will then repackage and re-blend it, removing the marketing hurdles that the societies faced while selling to marketing agents.
Mutsostso said that the Department of Cooperatives would evaluate existing market trends, analyse and research to ensure the prices per kilo improve.
She added that the sector’s main challenge remained the mismanagement of factories, coffee co-operative societies and crumbling of operations.
The CO said in a bid to boost coffee farming, the county government had started availing coffee seedlings to farmers through the coffee societies in the county.
This year alone, the cooperative department has trained 38 officers to handle coffee on the farms, trained 12 inspectors, 25 field officers and 40 coffee managers.
Many factories have been fighting for autonomy to avoid accountability which she said defeats the purpose of a co-operative movement, which is to pool resources
The two milling machineries have a capacity of 2.4 tones per hour and is targeting 200,000 farmers and will directly employ more than 500 people.
For many years, coffee growers in Bungoma have had to bear the burden of transporting their coffee parchments to millers in central Kenya for milling.
Due to the high cost of transport, farmers made losses or got very little returns. This made many quit coffee growing for sugarcane. According to the chief officer, coffee farmers will save Sh.42 million on transport as one bag would cost Sh350 for transportation.
In Kenya, the coffee industry contributes about Sh.20 billion to the economy annually with over 700, 000 small scale farmers on board.
President Uhuru Kenyatta recently set up a Sh.3billion Cherry advance revolving fund that has been operational from July this year. Coffee farmers will access the funds at a modest interest rate of 3 percent.
The Bungoma County has 42 coffee cooperative societies with membership of over 200, 000 with Mt. Elgon Sub County leading with 17 cooperatives.
By Roseland Lumwamu