Editorials

Embrace dialogue in the push for coffee reforms

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Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The dismissal of a suit challenging the implementation of new reforms in the ailing coffee industry offers an opportunity for dialogue on how best to revamp it.
  • High Court judge Weldon Korir struck out the petition by a group of farmers from central Kenya, who had sought to block the Crops (Coffee) (General) Regulations that are aimed at improving the fortunes of the industry.
  • Three farmers’ co-operative societies-Rwama, Gitwe, Thirikwa and Iyego argued the regulations were unconstitutional —an assertion the court rejected.

The dismissal of a suit challenging the implementation of new reforms in the ailing coffee industry offers an opportunity for dialogue on how best to revamp it.

High Court judge Weldon Korir struck out the petition by a group of farmers from central Kenya, who had sought to block the Crops (Coffee) (General) Regulations that are aimed at improving the fortunes of the industry.

Three farmers’ co-operative societies-Rwama, Gitwe, Thirikwa and Iyego argued the regulations were unconstitutional —an assertion the court rejected.

With this development, the State and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector have an opening to forge a common front in terms of efforts to overhaul the industry.

That the country’s coffee industry is in bad state and requires salvaging is not debatable. The signs of turmoil are all clear, with coffee production staying on a decline from a high of 130,000 tonnes realised in the late 1980s to the current 40,000 tonnes and disillusioned growers turning to other better rewarding ventures such as real estate or avocado farming.

Official statistics show that the majority of the smallholder coffee farmers are currently producing less than 2kg per tree per year against an annual potential of 35kg per tree.

Clearly, stakeholders in the industry have their work cut out for them. Focus should be on how to kick off reforms or risk watching as the sub-sector sink into further hopelessness.

We must appreciate that change never comes easy. Some cartels that have profitted from the mess in the industry would fight to uphold the status quo. They are bound to throw spanner in the works so that they can continue exploiting farmers.

The State should reach out to farmers with its detailed reform plans with the aim of winning over as many as possible. A more vibrant and profitable coffee industry is good for all and parties should desist from actions that would jeopardise change.

Any change process requires open dialogue and both State and coffee farmers should put away partisan interests and remain guided by the need to improve the industry.