The Parliamentary committee on agriculture has kicked off a public participation process exercise on the proposed Coffee Bill 2021 in Kiambu County.
During the tour, the committee will receive views from stakeholders and farmers’ representatives, local leaders and officials of the national Government based in the counties.
The tour is considered a fact finding mission in Mt. Kenya region, the Rift valley and Western Kenya to seek public views and is set for the first week of September.
During the event held at Ngemwa Primary School, Kwa Maikoo in Githunguri constituency, Kiambu coffee farmers declared their willingness to support the proposed National Assembly 2021 Coffee Bill, but on condition that they are allowed to elect their representatives into various agencies managing the sector.
The farmers said cooperative societies through the Societies Act had become an exploitative monster over the years, leaving them as impoverished servants and because of these they called for an overhaul of the cooperatives act.
“To improve coffee production we need money for inputs, pruning and labour since the options left for funding are commodity funds which are not friendly as cooperatives charge high interest rates and ask for security,” Peter Mbugua, a farmer from Komothai, told the committee.
“The New KPCU caters for cherry advance but we are left in the dark as to where the cherry will come from if not the farms…we are asking for a friendly means of funding between an individual and the millers,” said Mbugua.
The farmers further asked the National Assembly’s departmental committee on agriculture and livestock led by its chairman, Moiben MP Silas Tiren to hasten the proposed reforms in the sector which they said would rescue them from further exploitation.
Farmers also called for their representation in the key institutions namely Coffee Board of Kenya (CBK) and Coffee Research Foundation (CRI).
The farmers who were drawn from Komothai, Githunguri, Gatundu South, Ngemwa and Gatundu North asked the committee to address the issue of unrealistic operational costs for cooperative societies, Coffee proceeds payments (Direct settlement system), and Dual registration of millers as marketing agents and lack of sound procedure for the appointment of millers.
“We not happy about how we are short-changed in the milling and marketing processes and end up being paid very little money,” said Kamau Mburu.
Tigania West MP John Mutunga who is also a Committee member said the bill seeks to cushion coffee farmers from cartels who have been exploiting them for many years and urged them to be united and not to allow cartels to use them in challenging the reforms in court.
He further said any cooperative society manager found culpable of any offence will be held liable for corruption and will be charged in court.
Githunguri MP Gabriel Kago said the committee will work day and night to ensure the bill sails through before the 2022 General Elections.
The bill also proposes that a percentage levy of Nairobi Coffee Exchange value for coffee sold will be applied for operations of Coffee Board and Coffee Research Institute while the sample fee shall form part of the income for Nairobi Coffee Exchange.
The coffee sub sector in Kenya is an important exchange earner providing approximately USD 230million annually and a source of livelihood for over 800,000 smallholder coffee farmers.
The sub-sector is also key to the central agricultural role in contributing and realization of Kenya Vision 2030 and the Government’s big four agenda.
By Grace Naishoo