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Farmers call for suspension of coffee regulations 2019

A section of coffee farmers in Murang’a county have piled pressure on the government for suspension of coffee regulations 2019.

Farmers allied to Gatagua Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Kahuro Sub county, during their special general meeting claimed the new regulations are not favouring competition in marketing of coffee, thus denying them chance to explore other opportunities for better returns.

Coffee regulations 2019 requires coffee cooperative societies to channel their produce through 11 licensed union brokerage firms or through the New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (NKPCU).

The farmers argued that the government should not force them to sell their coffee to unions, which they claimed are poorly managed and marred with leadership wrangles.

The more than 900 farmers of Gatagua cooperative society Friday resolved to continue delivering their produce to their contracted millers, based on the impressive returns and support they have been getting since 2019.

The government has been pushing for implementation of the new regulations where buyers, millers and marketers of coffee are supposed to stick to their respective duties.

The farmers said they should be allowed to scout their millers who can also market their coffee, a move that goes against the regulations of 2019.

Chairman of the Gatagua society, Harrison Chege said after sourcing for a miller in 2019, their production has moved up from about 56, 000 kilos to more than 500, 000 kilos annually.

The increased production, according to Chege is attributed to good returns the farmers are getting from their contracted miller, noting that the new regulations now require them to only deliver their coffee through Murang’a Farmers Cooperative Union, where they have little trust.

“With our farmers rejecting the Coffee Regulations of 2019, the management of Gatagua society will find ways to have the already collected 102,000 kilos of coffee transported to our preferred miller,” he said.

The chairman further said lack of structured talks between farmers’ representatives and the 11 licensed brokerage union firms, has seen withholding of coffee in stores, across many of the cooperative societies.

“Currently many cooperative societies across the country are holding coffee in their stores as they await the way forward, since they fear selling their produce to licensed brokerage unions or NKPCU,” he added.

Gatagua is among cooperatives that have been selling 75 percent of the produce to Colombian market, with farmers being paid Sh80 per kilo last year, down from Sh110 per kilo in the previous year.

One of the cooperative farmers, Wilson Irungu castigated the push to have their coffee be sold through Murang’a Farmers Cooperative Union and its brokerage firm saying the move was counterproductive.

“The government ought to buy our produce directly without directing us to deliver our coffee to specific brokerage firms.  The farmers, if pushed negatively, will have no option but uproot their coffee trees and plant alternative crops,” said Irungu.

Another farmer, Peter Mwaniki said the government should conduct an audit of the said union, before demanding that farmers channel their produce, estimated at billions of shillings through the same.

“There are pertinent issues that need to be addressed, before the farmers are asked to allow their management committees to sell their coffee through the Murang’a Farmers Cooperative Union,” said Mwaniki.

By Bernard Munyao

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