Rein in rogue traders and support value addition, say lawmakers

By: DENNIS ODUNGA

Leaders from coffee growing areas on Monday challenged the government to check rogue traders and middlemen exploiting farmers.

Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe and Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki said the law should be amended to allow coffee farmers to sell their produce directly.

Mr Kagwe said the future lay in investing in value addition to create more jobs and guarantee farmers higher returns.

FOCUS ON GROWING MANUFACTURING CAPACITY

The senator said it was myopic to concentrate on farm-level jobs at the expense of expanding the manufacturing and processing sectors that are more rewarding.

Apart from creating jobs, the senator said the two sectors would guarantee government more revenue in taxes and increase exports.

“Our departure in structure and management of coffee ought to be based on value addition as opposed to just at farm level,” Mr Kagwe said.

Prof Kindiki said the Agricultural Finance Corporation should be converted into a farmers’ bank to offer subsidized loans.

“The farmers should be funded by a public body that can advance loans at low interest rates to improve credit access and production.

“We are still stuck in the 1960 product model. We need to export instant coffee to ensure farmers benefit from higher prices,” he said.

Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Kiraitu Murungi suggested that the government buys tea and coffee when international prices are down and sell them when the prices improve to save farmers from incurring losses.

He said that just as maize farmers keep their cereals at the National Cereals and Produce Board in anticipation of better prices, other crops should be accorded similar treatment.

Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama observed that coffee production had fallen due to lack of commitment by the government.

He said besides reducing production costs, the government should help farmers access international buyers.

SOCIAL MEDIA REACTION

On social media, Kenyans called for action against the rogue traders. One Ondiek Ja Mur Malanga said middlemen had enslaved farmers for decades.

“The cartels will never come there without being welcomed by the same brokers Nderitu Gachagua ( Nyeri governor) was trying to do away with. That same coffee end up being repackaged as Ethiopia, Rwanda or even Tanzania coffee once it gets to the Cartels Roasteries in South Africa and other countries in Europe. The only way is to set up Roasteries back there and add value to that coffee before selling it.”

However, some readers blamed the crisis on excessive government regulation.

“The solution is to end government regulation. Why should you need a license to mill coffee? It’s absurd,” said CK on Nation’s blog.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION