Coffee farmers in Kiambu County have come up with a new strategy of milling and selling their produce directly through the New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (New KPCU) in efforts to eradicate middlemen and fetch maximum proceeds.
The farmers have joined 10-member cluster groups through which they will be milling and marketing their produce rather than taking their produce to cooperative societies which, they said, had exploited them over the years.
During a meeting organized by Thika town MP Patrick Wainaina yesterday, over 100 farmer representatives said they can never entrust cooperative societies with their produce due to massive corruption and theft by management.
They recounted how they received peanuts after waiting for payment for a year despite putting in massive investment in the sector.
Joseph Gichia from Gatundu North Sub County said the frustrations have forced many to abandon coffee, vegetables, bananas, avocados and macadamia farming and instead invest in real estate which has better returns.
He said the county was over the years regarded highly for producing high quality coffee but this has slowly declined and is not the current case. He added that the cost of producing and delivering a kilogramme of coffee beans is Sh35 and was therefore a rip-off when they get paid Sh30.
“The cost of harvesting, farming, chemicals and pruning is high and being paid peanuts has led to many farmers to abandon the crop in favour of high paying ones,” he said.
Kamau Gichenu from Gatundu South Sub County said milling and selling coffee directly would sort out the challenges that they have faced and also make more farmers revert to coffee farming and improve on production.
The MP who initiated campaigns to revive the sector told the farmers that the government is firmly in control and is coming up with policies to revive the tea and coffee sector.
He told farmers not to give up on the two sectors as much was being done on the sidelines to revive the sectors to ensure farmers get good returns.
“This is one of the steps to improve marketing and eradicate brokers. I shall link you with the new KPCU to help in marketing your coffee and I assure you that you will get good returns,” said Wainaina.
He also called on the government to be ruthless with directors who have milked coffee societies dry and cartels that are frustrating the sector.
By Muoki Charles