Reform coffee sector to help revive economy

Why is Kenya’s economy shaky? Why is the country’s current account so bad? It is because the government is spending too much, partly on investment. Of course, projects cost too much because of corruption.

The other contributor is the poor performance of the export sectors: agriculture, tourism and manufacture.

Whereas terrorism is not self-inflicted, the sorry state of agriculture is.

A perfect example is coffee, perhaps the most widely grown cash crop in Kenya.

From a combination of climate, soils and a passionate peasantry, Kenya produces some of the finest and most sought after coffees in the world.

But the sector has virtually collapsed and the farmers have lost their livelihoods.

This has been brought about by aggressive and ruthless profit seeking by a network of international companies determined to keep bean prices low, local millers, corrupt regulators and uninformed government bureaucrats.

Today the Nation kicks off a campaign to demand a revolution in the coffee sector that will deliver fair prices to farmers and all concerned and in that way, help the economy.

In common cause with millions of farmers in more than eight counties, the Nation will be demanding five things from the Jubilee administration: first, overhaul the Coffee Act and free coffee farmers from regulatory slavery.

Secondly, delete the existing regulatory framework and put in its place a more transparent system.

Third, allow individual farmers to mill, market, and indeed, dispose of, as they see fit, their own coffee.

Finally, establish a transparent commodities market, regulated just like the Nairobi Securities Exchange, to end more than 50 years of exploitation and slavery of the Kenyan coffee farmer.