Techno-savvy coffee task force will start receiving opinions from Kenyans on improving the sector
The team chairman, Prof Joseph Kieyah, has advertised schedules for collecting memorandums across the counties and is also welcoming texts, phone calls, emails and social media input from the public.
The panel has up to the end of the month to come up with radical solutions to problems in the sector.
“The action (formation of the task force) was necessitated by the steady decline in coffee earnings for the farmers, especially small holders, over the last two decades,” reads the notice in the dailies.
President Uhuru Kenyatta wants the committee to come up with ways of substantially increasing farmers’ incomes and recommend means of financing production training and rehabilitating factories.
The team will also be required to develop processing and marketing practices that cannot be manipulated in favour of cartels to the detriment of farmers.
The Kenyan coffee industry has faced numerous challenges that have seen significant decline in production, with some farmers opting to uproot the crop.
Average production in Kenya during the period 1990/91 to 2012/13 was a million bags, down from 1.3 million bags.
Last year’s season, which runs to September, saw a paltry 568,766 60-kilogramme bags sold at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, from 671,438 bags sold in 2014.
Prof Kieyah said low productivity has also been caused by farmers’ inability to hit the 30 kilogramme a tree potential, with local producers only managing a paltry two kilogrammes.
Export earnings from the sector have fallen from Sh50.7 billion ($500 million) in the 1990s to Sh15.2 billion ($150 million) last year.
Some of the challenges facing farmers include high costs of fertilisers and pesticides, limited access to credit, as well as mismanaged cooperatives.