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Erratic rainfall to affect coffee production

Coffee value chain players fear that high fertilizer prices and delayed rainfall is likely to affect the coffee production.

The production according to the stakeholders, might decrease drastically this year, thus delay farmers’ high earnings

According to Lobby groups Kenya Coffee Producers Association (KCPA) and Kenya Coffee Platform (KCP) the delayed rains have already interrupted the crop flowering.

Speaking during an advocacy and lobbying training organized by various partners working under the Solidaridad East and Central Africa an organization that facilitates development in profitable supply chains, Peter Gikonyo KCPA chairman said the likely production decrease might further reduce Kenya’s share in the international market.

“The delay in flowering of the coffee will in the long run affect quality of the beans which Kenya is globally reputed for,” said Gikonyo.

He noted that although the Agriculture Ministry in February launched the Sh 1 billion fertilizer subsidy programme that requires farmers to pay 60 per cent of the cost, while government waives the balance, it seems unmanageable due to the depressed purchasing power.

Last month, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya launched the Coffee Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Kiambu County that would enable coffee farmers to enjoy a 40 per cent discount on farm inputs.

The programme to be 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

Gikonyo however said that despite the good move by the government farmers currently are not able to pay the subsidy requirement to be allowed to purchase the commodity from the agrovet shops.

“There is a likelihood the majority will not be able to and this will affect production and quality of the beans,” he added.

According to the industry players, the current price of fertilizer has reached Sh6, 000 in most of the regions, a situation government and other value chains say have contributed due to the current war between Russia and Ukraine and also the impact of COVID-19 that saw producing countries restrict exports to protect their own farmers.

Solidaridad Project Manager Boniface Mulandi said they are in the process of implementing the Reclaim Sustainability Programme (2021-2025) that targets key country’s commodities namely tea, coffee, food products, gold, and cotton textile.

“The programme seeks to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable value chains and trade in an innovative way, in which the interests, voices and rights of farmers, workers and citizens are represented and heard in decision making for sustainable use of natural resources, decent work, fair value distribution, and sustainable consumption,” said Mulandi.

Macharia Karugu from KCP said that despite farmers having in recent years enjoyed good prices, the earnings are still not sufficient due to the low annual production.

Since the 1987/88 crop year, Kenya has registered a 70 per cent production decline from 130,000 metric tonnes to around 40,000 metric tonnes in 2020/21 coffee year.

“We have witnessed a continuous decline of the production since 1988 to date although farmers have equally enjoyed impressive prices over the years”, he said.

The country has also faced stiff competition from the neighbouring countries mainly Uganda and Ethiopia which are registering 300,000 metric tonnes and 500,000 metric tonnes respectively every year.

According to Karugu, Tanzania is also likely to overtake Kenya in terms of production in coming years and therefore said that there is need for value chains to continue helping farmers.

The government targets to increase coffee production to five kilograms from the current two kilograms per tree by 2024.

Meanwhile, Kenya’s coffee sub-sector is an important foreign exchange earner bringing in approximately Sh 23 billion annually and providing a source of livelihood for over 80,000 smallholder coffee farmers.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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