Kenya is the fourth largest coffee producer in Africa. However, over the years the country has been grappling with declining production despite producing the best coffee in the world. Countries such as Ethiopia, Cote, dIvoire and Uganda are far ahead in terms of production.
Kenya is producing less than one million bags of clean coffee far below 7.6 million and 5.1 million bags in Ethiopia and Uganda. Cte dIvoire plans to increase production to more than four million bags from current about 1.5 million bags.
Uganda has seven-year coffee roadmap where President Yoweri Museveni wants all value chain players to increase production to more than 20 million bags from current 5.1 million.
Two weeks ago during the 16th African Fine Coffee Conference and Exhibition (AFCA) in Uganda, debate on how to boost production featured in nearly every session.
Inter-African coffee organisation (IACO) Secretary General Fred Kawuma said many African countries are implementing ambitious plans aimed at promoting production and quality in addition to providing lucrative opportunities to smallholder farmers.Kawuma said production in the continent is low despite its varieties being some of the best in the world.
Countries are currently grappling with surging population, high-level of poverty, diminishing land under coffee owing to emergence of real estates and other economic activities thus leading to dwindling productivity production, he said.
Kenya coffee sub-sector implementation committee (CSIC) appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2016 explained that Kenya has since 2014/15 registered a 3.2 per cent growth in production though this is still low compared to the regional peers.
Uganda coffee, during the period in review, grew by 36 per cent, 17.6 per cent in Rwanda, 16.3 per cent in Ethiopia and 12.3 per cent in Africa. Chairman of the committee Joseph Kieyah said the national government has lined up an ambitious strategy to revive the sub-sector with emphasis on boosting production per tree from current two kilogrammes to more than 12 kgs in the medium term.
Kenya, he assured will soon reclaim her space in the international market as friendly strategies are fast-tracked by all value chain players. Key action on the coffee reform agenda is providing subsidised fertiliser and improved planting materials.
Between March and April and September and November seasons, farmers need over two million bags of subsidised fertiliser worth over Sh2.1 billion, said recently during an interview during the AFCA conference in Uganda.
Equally he added, county governments will be required to have a coffee budget to support inputs procurement and seedling production. Further, counties will co-operate with Coffee Research Institute (CRI) in establishing nurseries of disease resistant varieties.
The institutes soil chemist and plant nutritionist J.N. Mburu says strategies being implemented with county governments seek to increase productivity per coffee bush to more than 12 kilogrammes in medium term.
We are determined to push the yields up by actualising various activities such as soil testing, providing new planting materials and counselling farmers on measures to take to mitigate the impact of climate change to coffee, he said recently at Ruiru CRI head offices.
Critical nutrient deficiencies exist in all coffee growing due continuous mining of nutrients without balance areas, he added, noting that this has resulted to a decline in coffee productivity level to less than 2kg of cherry per tree. This, Mburu said, is below economic threshold to sustain coffee farming.
Equally, soil fertility status has not been established in most counties. Kieyah said the agenda will also focus on wooing more women and youth into coffee farming, explaining that this will help in replacing the aging community. He said the current average age of small-scale farmer stand at 58 years compared to 47 years in Uganda.
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