US retains spot as top global buyer of Kenyan coffee


The US has extended its hold as the top buyer of Kenya’s coffee, beating Belgium and Germany for the second year in a row with purchases worth Sh4.4 billion in the 2019/20 period.

Statistics from the Coffee Directorate put America at the top having bought 9.1 million kilogrammes in the crop year which ended in October 2020, up from 6.6 million kilogrammes previously.

Until 2017, Germany was the largest buyer of Kenyan coffee, a position that it had held for nearly a decade.

However, the US took the top spot in 2018 after Kenya aggressively marketed its specialty coffee during the 2018 Specialty Coffee Association of America symposium in Seattle, US.

Kenya was given “portrait status” at the symposium, making it the main focal point at the exhibition, which is one of the largest single-market avenues for coffee producers to meet buyers and consumers of the beverage.

During the 2020 season, America offered the highest price per kilo at Sh475 compared with Germany Sh410.

Germany bought coffee worth Sh3.6 billion in the year ended October 2020 with the value dropping by eight percent compared with the previous year, coming in third after Belgium which bought coffee worth Sh3.7 billion. Germany fell to position three despite buying more quantities than Belgium, which paid a higher price per unit.

Kenya exports most of its coffee as cleaned beans. It exports only five as roasted coffee. According to the directorate, Kenya exported 98 percent of the commodity in the review period as green coffee.

The country, therefore, misses out on the added value from selling roasted and packaged coffee.

Roasters buy Kenyan produce to blend with lower quality beans from elsewhere in the world.

The country is seeking to raise the amount of coffee, which is locally roasted, by five to 10 percent annually over the next five years, although concerns remain over falling yields and reduced acreage under coffee.

Productivity of coffee per bush has dropped from 10 kilogrammes in the 1980s to two kilogrammes currently.