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Murang’a real estate uproots 710 acres of coffee plantations

A coffee farmer inspects his crop. file PHOTO | NMG
A coffee farmer inspects his crop. file PHOTO | NMG 

Murang’a County has lost 710 acres of coffee to the construction industry as well as other agri-business ventures.

An earlier report by area coffee advisory officer Paul Mutua shows by the end of 2015 the county had shed off 350 acres and by 2030, the farming will be at its lowest.

In his briefing letter to the Agricultural Food Authority (AFA) on emerging challenges in the sector, Mr Mutua says Makuyu, Kandara, Gatanga and Kangema sub counties are leading in abandoning coffee farming.

The first three are on the tailend of Thika Road, which is one of the most prized real estate hot spots.

He cites erratic weather, inadequate affordable credit by the industry, high cost of inputs (both at production and processing levels) as well as declining soil fertility especially in the traditional coffee growing areas.

“Competition for coffee land from other sectors of the economy especially real estate and other agri business enterprises especially the dairy and horticulture sectors is the real threat for coffee production in the county,” he says.

He notes area under coffee farming in the county stands at 13,325 ha shared out at 1,138 ha managed by estates, 12,187 ha by small scale producers.

In the 1980’s, Murang’a produced 200 metric tonnes of coffee a year as compared to the current average of 20 million kilos.

It is projected that by 2022, coffee farmers will have reduced from the current 70,000 farmers to below 40,000.

Currently, area governor, Mwangi wa Iria has set aside Sh1.3 billion to rejuvenate coffee farming, but there appears to be little enthusiasm by farmers.