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State steps up revitalization of  Coffee Sector

The government has taken several initiatives to address the declining production of Coffee in the country.

In the last one year, Coffee Research Institute (CRI) has identified 92 Technologies, Innovations and Management Practices (TIMPS) in the Coffee value chain of which at least 62 intervention measures are ready for promotion.

This moves comes after the sector recorded a decline in production down to  34,000 tonnes from a peak of 128,000 tonnes in 1988 with a drop in Coffee earnings from   500 million dollars to  250 million dollars during the previous seasons..

Flagging off a major initiative towards coffee improvement that will see a turnaround strategy recommended by a task force the government in 2017 formulated the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) to promote new technologies to spur productivity from the present average of a 2kg per tree to the envisaged 10kg per tree.

KALRO, Director General Dr. Eliud Kireger said that a Coffee Revitalization Program (CRP) is in place to speed up the uptake of the technologies and realize quick win to spur the industry.

Speaking during a sensitization seminar on coffee Technologies, Innovations and Management Practices (TIMPs), the DG noted that with a total production of 40,000 tonnes now from a 2kg tree, attaining the 10kg per tree would increase the production of coffee to 200,000 tonnes setting a new record without increasing the area under coffee.

The DG said that Brazil being the main producer of Arabica coffee in the world envisions to produce 35.7 million bags in the next 12 month starting July 2022 down from 48.7 million bags 2 year ago due to climatic conditions

This initiative, he explained is timely happening when there is projected shortage of Coffee and potentially high price and therefore Kenya should take advantage of the global outlook for the benefit of Kenyan farmers.

Eng. David Njogu, from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Coordinator of the Coffee Revitalization in the Country acknowledged that during the peak of the coffee production in the country in 1988, it used to export around 120,000 metric tonnes of green coffee but as at 5 years ago the production had fallen to 35,000 metric tonne.

He explained that they have been working towards capacity building of the management of cooperative societies governance since most of the small holders coffees in the country forms 70 percent of the exports and at the same time they are using modern technology to revamp most processing plants of coffee factories that have been abandoned for a long time.

Under revitalization programme, Eng. Njogu said that they have been able to bring players together and a Cooperative bill was drafted that was forwarded to the twelfth parliament.

Dr. Elijah Gichuru , Institute Director, at CRI in Ruiru explaining ome of the technologies they are using to improve production of coffee.

Unfortunately, he added that the bill did not get to presidential accent before the close of just concluded 12th parliament but is optimistic that the incoming thirteenth parliament once opens will give agenda of the coffee priority.

He pointed out that through governments Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP) they are focusing on 8 coffee growing counties namely Kiambu, Machakos, Nyeri, Muranga, Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru and Tharaka Nithi.

“We have already ,through this project done soil analysis to address the issue of soil fertility, formulated coffee specific fertilizer for the regions and we are  discussing the formulation with manufacturing factories in the country to be able to produce fertilizer for coffee blended in Kenya,  for Kenyan coffee and this fertilizer application has been a game changer”, he said

Some the factories such as Kibugu farmers  society in Embu and Baragwi farmers society in Kirinyaga, he said have applied the fertilizer for and have seen tremendous yields proving that it is working”, Eng. Njogu said

Currently, Eng. Njogu said as they the roll out of over 62 technologies, they are organizing with counties to develop a framework of delivering the technologies to the farmers in the most efficient way before the month of November as the farmers prepare their crops for the next season.

“Digitization is being adopted in the sector from the weighing of coffee, communication and books of accounts including storing and this has assisted and benefited over 40 societies from production all the way to the payment point”, Eng. Njogu said.

Dr. Elijah Gichuru , Institute Director, at CRI in Ruiru , “We have a program to revitalize the coffee and the essence is to increase the production at the production level, quality at the exit at the farmers point of view and primary processing which is under the cooperatives”.

On matters technology, Dr. Gichuru said that they are incorporating new ways of coffee processing like drying with the sun, using solar energy other than electricity and fossil fuels, looking at expanding of coffee areas such as going to western of the rift valley  in order to increase the loss of land under coffee

“The revitalization program through the KCSAP will be going on for the next three weeks and starting this coming Monday 5th , we will be training  farmers from the 8 counties on the new technologies in order to improve this sector”, he added

In the last production year, Dr. Gichuru said they were able to produce seeds which was adequate and from about 9 million seedlings, have released around 800,000 seedlings to farmers.

“We are just from a one harvesting season that is May, June and July and we expect the next one to pick up in October up to January. This is the time to put in seedlings on the ground which will be planted again at the earliest in November when the  short rains start and then we will also have seeds which the farmers can put on the ground in their nurseries and then they plant in April next year” the Institute Director said.

Their target, Dr. Gichuru said is to provide not less than 4 tonnes of seeds per year that will give farmers not less than 12 million seedlings per year and if this level is maintained, the next three to five year they will have served the current demand and the demand of the will most likely go lower.

According to the government, improving coffee production is essential considering it is estimated that over 700,000 families in the country derive livelihood directly from coffee.

  By Wangari Ndirangu

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