Counties

Lobby petitions Senate over restrictive cash crop laws

farrmers

Mr Harrison Munyi, the New Farmers Association chairman, reads a press statement after a coffee farmers' meeting in Karatina town, Nyeri County, in 2015. The farmers lobby has petitioned the Senate to review the licensing policies of Kenya's main cash crops. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Farmers group says restrictive laws a major hurdle in the coffee, tea and macadamia sectors
  • The association also wants the government to repeal Article 43 of the Macadamia Act that bans the export of raw nuts.

A farmers’ group has petitioned the Senate to review the licensing policies of the main cash crops in Kenya to allow farmers to trade freely.

The New Farmers Association has sought the intervention of the Senate Agriculture committee to get rid of middlemen in the coffee, tea and macadamia sector, who have perennially exploited farmers.

The farmers drawn from the Mt Kenya region also want the government to reconstitute or disband the Agriculture Food Authority, arguing that agriculture was a function of county governments.

“AFA is a barrier to farmers’ success, the directorate controls everything including oppressing the farmers. They have no legal mandate to regulate and license agriculture crops since the powers now lie with the county government,” noted Mr Harrison Munyi, the chairman of the association.

The petitioners say the restrictive laws were a major hurdle against the coffee, tea and macadamia sectors countrywide.

In the coffee sector, the association said the current guidelines under the Coffee Act only benefits the tycoons in the sector leaving out the ordinary farmers.

“We would like the government to review the clause under the Coffee Act to allow buyers to come and buy coffee from farmers directly and freely,” noted

Mr Munyi said the marketing licence was prohibiting some companies that had shown interest and offering a better price for their commodity.

Main worry

“Marketing is our main worry because only a few multinational companies are licensed to market our coffee, we want a free market,” he said.

Complicated logistics, inability for farmers to market themselves on an international level, lack of government support and inconsistent seasons have ensured very minimal direct sales of coffee by farmers.

“Only a selected few are benefiting from the current marketing system and structures as prices are rigged out against the ordinary farmer,” added Mr Munyi.

The association also want the government to repeal Article 43 of the Macadamia Act that bans the export of raw nuts.

There have been numerous court cases lodged by farmers seeking to have the article removed, saying the law has subdued and frustrated the conduct of their business.

“Macadamia and coffee helps us takes our children to school but now we have the government suppressing our hard work with the restrictive guidelines controlling some of these agricultural produces,” he said.

The farmers also want the government to look into the farmers' assets including the Kenya Planters Cooperative Union, the Pyrethrum Board and the Kenya Farmers Association.