Coffee farmers in Mt. Kenya rely on cash windfall from direct export sales

Framers sort coffee berries at a stall in Embu, November 26, 2021. [Muriithi Mugo, Standard]

Coffee farmers in the Mt. Kenya region are looking forward to financial fortunes thanks to improved product quality and direct sales to the international market.

Officials from several cooperatives said good qualities, increased direct sales abroad, increased production and reduced operating costs have benefited farmers, who now have better income.

Gachatha factory chairman Peter Mathenge said most of the AA, AB, BB and C grade coffee (90 percent) considered primarily for export was produced by 1,500 farmers.

“In the last two years we have been able to pay our farmers over Sh100 per kilo through direct sales because of the improved quality and access to markets,” said Mr Mathenge.

He noted that the Nyeri factory has announced the highest payment rate this year at Sh120 per kilo, compared to Sh106 per kilo last year, which went from 719,000 kilos to Sh90 million.

Mr. Mathenge added that purchasing more efficient pulping machines has helped improve the quality of parchment because they tear fewer beans and save on water and electricity costs.

“Farmers are now producing high-quality beans because the machine does not nibble or break the beans during pulping, which guarantees good quality that will command a premium price in the market,” said the chairman.

He also attributed the low tariffs to increased direct sales abroad, which he said accounted for over 90 percent of all coffee produced. The rest of the coffee was auctioned off.

The same was repeated at the Kiandu factory, where over 1,200 farmers secured 85 percent of the premium grades, with just 10 percent of the coffee sold through the auction. Around 80 percent were sold in direct sales.

Factory chairman Kariuki Mundia pointed out that production has also increased due to favorable weather conditions, with the factory producing 609,669 kilos for the 2020/2021 season compared to 329,671 kilos last season.

Revenue from the product also increased from Sh30 million to Sh66 million over the same period.

“Coffee production has also increased tremendously as more farmers and young people are attracted to growing coffee,” Mundia said.

Other companies have also announced prices in excess of Sh100. This includes Thiriku, who paid Sh110 from Sh100 last season.

Factory chairman Karoki Waiganjo said production had also increased to 305,000 kilos from 170,000 kilos in 2020/21, for an overall profit of Sh39 million from Sh20 million.

He said the factory products would be sold direct to Trabocca BV of the Netherlands under a five-year contract with a minimum guarantee of Sh100 per kilo.

Kamau Kuria, managing director of Coffee Management Service (CMS), said global demand for the product now stands at 172 million bags, with production at 158 ​​million bags.

“The world’s coffee production is short of 14 million bags as the demand in the global market increases,” said Mr. Kuria.

He said the international market is facing a serious shortage of high-quality Arabica coffee due to drought and frostbite in Brazil, the main global supplier.

However, he noted that local production is still low at 28,000 tons.

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