A farmer tends her coffee. Kirinyaga is hoping to better returns from the cash crop through value addition.
Kirinyaga County is exploring the possibility of setting up a coffee processing plant that will ensure value addition, improve returns for farmers and create jobs for locals.
The county has said this will be done through public private partnerships (PPPs) as part of interventions that are lined-up to improve production in a sector that has faced numerous challenges including poor yields and fluctuation of prices.
Declining returns have made some farmers uproot their crop replacing it with napier grass or horticultural crops.
The county has a total of 45,469 acres under coffee, which is produced by 15 coffee cooperatives and about 400 estates.
Total production in the last coffee year (2016/2017) was 26,000 tonnes.
Kirinyaga governor Anne Waiguru says the county has met local and foreign investors with the latest being a forum with coffee importers and roasters from South Korea, with the aim of exploring possibility of setting up a processing factory.
“The economic significance of the coffee sector in Kirinyaga cannot be over-emphasised. There are many coffee farmers who solely depend on coffee farming to educate their children and provide for their families,” said Waiguru.
“Our role is to offer the requisite support to ensure coffee farmers in Kirinyaga benefit from their produce,” said Ms Waiguru.
According to the county’s department of agriculture, coffee production has been increasing due to a combination of factors including extension services, improved fertiliser availability, favourable climate, better prices as well as management.
This has resulted to good quality beans where prices have moved from an average of Sh40 per kilogramme to Sh80.
Data from the county’s agriculture department shows that Kirinyaga coffee farmers raised production from 24,000 metric tonnes in 2014/15 to 33,000 metric tonnes in 2015/16.
However, in 2016/17 crop year this dropped to 26,000 metric tonnes due to adverse climatic conditions, but officials at the department said they hope this will improve in the future when conditions are suitable.
Ms Waiguru said the county government is also lining up a coffee tasting festival aimed at marketing Kirinyaga as a leading producer of the crop to attract local and international businesses interests.
The governor said similar marketing efforts will be extended to world’s top coffee importers including the United States, Germany, France, Italy and Japan.
Data from the Coffee Directorate places the United States as the top country that buys Kenyan coffee in large quantities.
US purchase of the country’s coffee is said to be at Sh7 billion presently, overtaking Germany and Belgium as the top buyers.
The data also indicates that US bought 8.9 million kilogrammes at Sh47,998 for a 60 kilogramme bag of coffee.
By JAMES NGUNJIRI
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