By: LUCAS BARASA
Governor Peter Munya has attributed the collapse of the coffee industry in Kenya to the punitive fees farmers are required to pay to sell their produce directly.
Anyone wishing to set up a marketing agency must deposit a Sh1 billion guarantee with the Kenya Coffee Directorate and this has locked most farmers out of the value chain and given rise to cartels.
Kenya has only seven marketing agents licensed to participate in auctions at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange.
Mr Munya said the national government had made licensing of coffee mills too difficult.
While the function has been devolved, the State has refused to let go, he added.
“The directorate has made it hard for farmers to participate in production,” said Mr Munya in his office Wednesday when he hosted Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme officials led by Principal Secretary Micheni Ntiba.
“Counties are facing opposition from the national government as far as licensing is concerned.
“There’s push and pull. They don’t want us to issue the licenses,” Mr Munya said.
He added: “Some millers have to rent other people’s licenses. We need to deal with the constraints so as to move the country forward.”
Mr Munya, who hailed an expose run by the Nation focusing on the woes facing the coffee sector, said small-scale farmers are the hardest hit by the stringent licensing conditions.
Mr Munya, however, said he was happy that his government had helped the Meru Central Farmers Cooperative Society, which he said had transformed the sector in the county and increased farmers’ earnings.
“The society was put up by the county government. We hired the mill for the farmers and paid for central milling.
“We made sure farmers are not swindled. They did not do that on their own. The society’s success is because of the county government. We are happy about that,” he said.
The governor accused officials of cooperatives of being part of the cartels that manipulate coffee prices at the expense of farmers.
The Meru County Coffee Millers Co-operative Union became the first to get a commercial marketing licence in Kenya to sell its produce on the international market.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION