Task force calls for coffee subsidies


A variety of coffee beans at the Nairobi auction. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A coffee task force committee has recommended subsidies of farming inputs to farmers to address the high cost of production and increase growers’ earnings.

In a report, the committee noted that there is a need to address the high cost of production that has eaten into farmers’ margins.

The committee has also recommended improvement of the quality of coffee at the farm level by adopting good agricultural practices and modern coffee processing technologies and promoting efficiency in the management of the crop through co-operative societies.

“There is [a] need to address a reduction in the cost of production through appropriate support of growers with quality and affordable farm inputs and planting materials,” said a report of the task force.

The task force also wants farmers to be involved directly in coffee marketing to enhance transparency. Currently, growers sell through marketing agencies.

The Ministry of Agriculture appointed the technical committee in August last year to examine the causes of coffee prices instability and propose a framework for the attainment of competitive, sustainable and stable coffee prices.

The task force also wants the sector regulator to explore other marketing channels such as futures and forward sales besides auction where most of the produce is sold.

“There is also a need to explore bilateral agreements with Kenya’s coffee markets for competitive and agreeable market access conditions,” the task force said.

Timothy Mirugi, the managing director of the New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union said they have started the subsidy programme in the pilot phase where 80,000 farmers have been registered.

Out of this, 45,000 have benefited through the provision of farm inputs.

Mr Mirugi said under the scheme, farmers are required to pay 60 percent of the total amount required while the balance is paid by the government.

“We have Sh1 billion under this subsidy programme and it is what we are using at the moment in the pilot phase,” said Mr Mirugi.

The committee said challenges in the coffee subsector have contributed to low production, a decline that started in 2014.

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