Kenya’s $15m plan to revive tea, coffee sectors

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A farmer tending to coffee berries at a farm in Kenya. PHOTO/KENYA

In Summary

• The cash crops have been on a steady decline in recent years due to low returns and mismanagement of the sectors.

• The govt recently launched programmes that seek to boost and protect farmers’ earnings.

Kenya recently launched a revitalization programme aimed at shielding tea and coffee farmers from exploitation and safeguarding what used to be the country’s top foreign exchange earners.

The cash crops have been on a steady decline in recent years due to low returns and mismanagement of the sectors.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya unveiled the Ksh1.5 billion ($15 million) programme last week, which targets eight counties that account for about 70 per cent of the country’s coffee production.

“We are focusing on improving production and quality of coffee by reviving its growth, training and supporting farmers with quality seeds, extension services, refurbishing of coffee factories and mills, improving storage and sourcing of markets,” he said.

Complementary programme

The programme, funded by the World Bank, is Kenya’s latest attempt to revive the sector and complements the government’s $30 million Cherry Revolving Fund set in motion in January, to provide affordable, sustainable and accessible advances to smallholder coffee growers.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also extended the office term of the Coffee Sector implementation committee formed to implement the findings of a reforms taskforce.

The taskforce had recommended reforms such as the crop’s regulatory framework, promotion of specialty coffee, increasing involvement of the youth and turning the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE) into a public limited company.

In the tea sector, the agriculture ministry recently published draft tea regulations aimed at protecting farmers’ earnings and weeding out cartels in the sector.

Tea factories will now have to pay farmers at least 50 per cent of the total value of the green leaf that they deliver to factories with the remainder paid out as a bonus at the end of the year.

Delays in payments or retention of large amounts of tea farmers’ money by the Kenya Tea Development Authority, despite receiving payments from tea brokers within 14 days from the date of auction, have been identified by the ministry as among the factors that have weakened the cash flow position of many small-scale tea farmers many of whom have resorted to tea hawking to cater for their basic needs.