The Government has launched a Coffee Farm Input Subsidy Program in Kiambu County, which will enable coffee farmers to enjoy a 40 per cent discount on farm inputs.
The Program being implemented by the New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (New KPCU), will see both smallholder coffee farmers in cooperative societies and small estate coffee farmers, issued with a card, that they will use to buy fertilizer or pesticides from accredited suppliers and pay 60 percent of the input cost and a 40 percent subsidy will be given by the government.
Addressing coffee farmers at Ndumberi Ground in Kiambu, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS), Peter Munya, said this will allow coffee farmers to access a wide range of inputs of their choice at the required time and at the nearest input supplier.
“The Government has identified input suppliers who will be involved in the programme that include Agro-dealers and Cooperative societies. All you will need to do is swipe the card at the accredited agro-dealer and pay only Sh600 for a fertilizer or pesticide that sells at Sh1000 shillings then the government will pay the Sh400 for you,” Munya said.
The CS further explained that the government has already released Sh1 billion meant for the programme to the New KPCU, a government parastatal which is the Administrator of the funds.
“All participating farmers and agro-dealers are expected to register with New KPCU since the Bank will use the data to issue farmers with a card resembling an ATM card which they will use to buy the input at a subsidized price,” added Munya.
The Agriculture CS also encouraged the farmers to take advantage of the Coffee Cherry Advance Fund, saying only a small amount has been borrowed since the money was availed following orders by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Munya, however, threatened to dissolve coffee societies management committees, that will not sign application forms for farmers applying for coffee cherry advance in two weeks.
“I am directing the National Government Administrative officials to ensure forms are signed for farmers to receive money, however, committees that have not been communicating to farmers about the Fund or are reluctant to sign the form risk being dissolved in two weeks’ time,” warned Munya.
The coffee revitalization programme seeks to support President Uhuru’s ‘Big Four’ Agenda, on Food Security pillar, which targets to increase large scale production of food and to empower small scale farmers to increase their productivity.
The Government targets to increase coffee production to five kilograms from the current two kilograms per tree by 2024.
Following the implementation of the Programme, Coffee farmers have lauded the Ministry of Agriculture, on its efforts towards reviving the coffee sectors, saying that government programs have borne fruit to the exaltation by stakeholders.
The farmers were speaking at the launch of the sensitization forums for coffee inputs subsidy programme, when they acknowledged that programmes such as the subsidy given to farmers through the Kenya Crop Planters Union (KCPU), have boosted production of the Cash Crop
Samuel Mbugua, a representative of coffee farmers in the Komothai Ward of Kiambu County, said that in the previous years, harvest on the crop was minimal, but owing to subsidies offered in recent past, the harvest has been bountiful.
“Because of the subsidies that farmers have been getting, the level of productivity has gone higher and the returns have greatly improved,” Mbugua acknowledged.
His sentiments were echoed by John Kamau, a representative of the Igegania Farmers’ Society in Kiambu who noted the increase in yield, owing to reforms in the sector.
“The yield in our farms has gone up from just 600 kilos to 2,200 kilos since we started getting assistance in acquiring inputs to grow the crop,” Kamau said.
In his remarks, the representative, also compared the current status of coffee farming in Kenya, to what it was in the 70s when growers of the crop were said to enjoy great returns.
“Our parents raised us on coffee, they would get funds even before they planted the crop, enabling them to pay out school fees, then the money would be deducted only after they have sold their harvest,” Kamau told the meeting.
“We’re happy that we’re going back to those days owing to the subsidies allocated by the Ministry of Agriculture,” he added.
Ndumberi Ward Member of the County Assembly, Kimani Kamaguru, while reminiscing the boom of the yesteryears, called on the government to help with the debt accrued by the crop planters union.
“We have seen stakeholders involved in the production of other crops such as sugar getting their debts cleared by the government. We ask the government to extend the same courtesy to coffee farmers,” Kamaguru appealed.
The Ward representative also expressed hope that as sensitization on the subsidy goes on, more farmers who had abandoned the crop will return to it.
The coffee inputs subsidy is an initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture, which will be implemented through the Kenya Crop planters Union.
According to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Peter Munya, farmers will only pay 60 percent of the price of inputs while the government covers the 40 percent.
Farmers will also get guidance on the choice of pesticides and other inputs, to ensure that they get products that are safe for use.
The sensitization exercise launched in Kiambu and Machakos, is aimed at informing farmers on the facilities available to them and will be replicated in other coffee growing counties.
Meanwhile, Coffee farmers from Othaya Constituency in Nyeri County, are pleading with the government to hasten the enactment of the Coffee Bill, which was forwarded to Parliament late last year.
Speaking to the press during their Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Tuesday at Gatuyaini Coffee Factory, the farmers lauded Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS), Peter Munya, for spearheading the coffee sub-sector reforms and for his continued push to have Parliament pass the Coffee Bill.
They have termed the Coffee Bill as their savior and are pleading with President Uhuru Kenyatta to ensure that the Bill sails through and signed into law before the General Elections in August.
“The Agriculture CS has been of great help to us as coffee farmers. He has been pushing for the Bill to sail through Parliament. Our call to the President is to ensure that the Bill goes through, for him to sign it into law before his term expires. By doing so, the coffee farmer will benefit in a great way from the recommendations contained in the Bill,” said one Joseph Kahuthia, a farmer.
The farmers expressed their satisfaction with the coffee prices, saying that they feel favored by the Sh100 per kilogram of coffee. Coffee earnings in the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE) for the month of January this year, almost doubled to Sh10.2 billion from Sh5.3 billion last year in January, heralding better returns for farmers.
The current average price of a 50 kilogram bag of coffee is selling at Sh38, 363 which translates to Sh767.26 per kilogram of coffee. NCE also noted that the amount of coffee up for auction has increased by 5.2 million kilograms compared to the 8.1 million kilograms in January 2021.
“We can’t complain as coffee farmers on the prices. We have been receiving Sh100 for every kilo of coffee we sell. That’s a fair price and we feel our labour is paying off,” James Waithaka, another farmer said.
The farmers have also lauded the recently launched E-subsidy programme which will allow them to only pay 60 per cent for the inputs while the government will cater for the remainder through the programme. The E-subsidy will be implemented by the Co-operative Bank of Kenya -who are opening accounts for farmers with e-wallets for fertilizer and pesticides- and the New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (KPCU) who will fund the cash transfer to the bank.
“The 40 per cent discount on pesticides and fertilizer from the government will be a great motivation for farmers to continue investing in the crop. It is our duty as farmers to work extra hard to produce more kilos of coffee for us to earn more,” added Waithaka.
However, a section of farmers had complaints over the management of the cooperative societies, who they accused of mismanaging the coffee societies and lacking transparency with the earnings made from the sale of coffee.
The farmers have called on the Agriculture CS to intervene by instituting management reforms similar to those made in the tea sub-sector, which they argued would protect them from further exploitation.
The Agriculture CS on Friday last week in Embu County faulted the National Assembly for failing to make progress in enacting the Coffee Bill that was forwarded to parliament last year. The Coffee Bill is expected to bring changes in the coffee sector by streamlining the coffee value chain from production to marketing without the interference of the cartels.
Among the prominent proposals are a plan to shift the mandate of issuing coffee marketer and brokers with licenses from the NCE to the Capital Markets Authority.
Kenya’s coffee sub-sector is an important foreign exchange earner bringing in approximately USD 230 million annually and a source of livelihood for over 80,000 smallholder coffee farmers.
By Grace Naishoo and Duncan Mutwiri