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Coffee farmers praise reforms as pay improves

A good number of coffee farmers from Kirinyaga County have entered in the list of millionaires this year, courtesy of hefty pay from the sale for their last year’s produce.

The coffee society’s management and farmers have all expressed their excitement attributing their success to the proposed coffee sector reforms by the government.

David Ngari from Gakuyu factory in Gichugu is one of the many farmers who have made a fortune through the sale of 7,600 kilograms of coffee. His factory sold the farmer’s cherry and managed to fetch Sh 107.50 per kilogram.

Ngari was beaming with excitement. He was optimistic that his factory would surpass a hundred shillings per kilogram pay.

“We were determined to improve our coffee berries through applying proper farming skills. Every farmer played his or her part to improve on the yields through the use of proper sprays, manure and fertilizer application. We also worked closely with the factory leadership to make sure all goes well,” he said.

He is now urging the government to continue supporting farmers through equipping them with necessary farm inputs as well as knowledge on how to continue improving and increasing their yields.

Ngari has also appealed to the agriculture ministry to aggressively conduct a civic education to coffee farmers on the proposed reforms, as many are still ignorant about them.

Farmers from Rungeto coffee society busy harvesting crop before delivering it to the factory for processing. Photo by Irungu Mwangi

“All we know is that the Munya led reforms made of officials wake up, otherwise where do you think this money has come from as compared to the other years where a kilo of coffee would fetch between 10 and 20 shillings,” Ngari said

Daniel Kibanya another farmer from Inoi Coffee Society is equally excited and contented with his society’s pay of Sh 97 shillings per kilo.

He said the factory is gradually regaining its lost glory after close to five years of mismanagement by the previous leadership.

Kibanya expressed optimism that with the new leadership in place, the next crop would earn them over 110 shilling per kilo.

“We will test the new management’s competence in leading us to earn more in the 2021/2022 crop”, he said.

“Whatever we got this season can be attributed to the board that was disbanded earlier in the year due to bad management and hefty loans that had choked the progress of our entity,” he said.

Felix Mureithi Mwai, the Chairperson for Inoi Coffee Society said farmers last year earned 69 shillings per kilogram against 97 shillings this season.

He attributed the rise in payment to the government involvement in the management of coffee societies and the dwindling production of Brazil’s coffee, which over the years has contributed immensely to the high production of the world’s coffee.

Mwai said with the reforms expected in the sector, the over 8,000 farmers will double the production from last season’s 639,000 kilograms to about 1.5 million kilograms.

Rung’eto Coffee Society, comprises three factories, is so far the highest earner in the county.

Farmers from the society managed Sh 118 shillings per kilogram for the 2.7 million kilograms of coffee delivered to the market last season.

The society’s chair Joyce Wanjiku said the cooperation and hard work that existed among the management team, farmers and marketers is a direct implication of the impressive sale that led farmers smiling to their banks.

Wanjiku said much as her society’s farmers produced more (that is 3.2m kilograms) in the 2019/2020 season, farmers managed to take home a meager 54 shillings per kilogram of coffee sold.

“Farmers are excited that their effort is paying off. I challenge them to continue applying good farming methods so that we can increase the crop production which slightly reduced this season compared to the season that preceded it,” she said.

Wanjiku also appealed to the government to heavily consult with all coffee stakeholders before introducing the coffee reforms to the parliament for debate.

“Let the government bring on board all players so that they can be given a chance to express their views. The clauses that raise eyebrows could be re-looked for the benefit of all players,” she said.

Her Gakuyu coffee society counterpart James Gitari called on the government to create an enabling environment for the thriving of coffee farming. He said many farmers are appreciative of the government’s effort in streamlining the coffee sector

“If the sector continues to grow, farmers will prosper.” His society sold 1.5 million kilograms of coffee against 1.3 million kilograms in 2019/2020.

The produce fetched a price of 107 shillings per kilo against 73 shillings per kilo in the 2019/2020 season.

By Irungu Mwangi

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