11 September 2017

Kenya: Repeat Poll Slows Down Reforms in Coffee Sector

Photo: Daily Nation
President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks during a meeting with members of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance at State House, Nairobi.

Efforts to revive the coffee sector have suffered a setback in the wake of the political standoff pitting the opposition against the government over repeat presidential elections.

Towards the August 8 elections, coffee prices were suppressed by what the deputy director of Kenya Co-operative Union, Mr Justus Kiago, said is a decision by international buyers to stay away pending the poll outcome.

Mr Kiago said during a TV interview that the industry had just begun to pick up after the elections. "But with the re-elections, we are unlikely to get international buyers. The prices will be very much suppressed. This is how farmers are losing," Mr Kiago said.

He said the coffee auction, which had reopened on August 15 after it was closed in July, cannot resume operations until after the elections.

According to him, the country has lost billions of shillings following suspension of the auction.

The repeat elections may also affect the early crop, which growers are currently picking, as mobilising labour is a challenge during the campaign period.

"Most of the top grade coffee will not be available in the market as many berries will dry on the trees. They will be sold as mbuni (dry coffee berries), which are not of superior grade," the KPCU deputy director said.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ordered a repeat of the presidential elections after a successive petition filed by Nasa leader Raila Odinga who had challenged the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Dr Patrick Mbataru, author of Coffee Crisis: Old interests, new interests and illusions of development, says Kenyan coffee is still widely sought in the world because of its high quality.

"There's still good market for Kenyan coffee if farmers can concentrate on the quantity and quality of their crop," Dr Mbataru, who teaches at Kenyatta University, said.

His book was published from his PhD thesis following research on why coffee has remained a hindrance to the growth of small holder farmers in rural Kenya despite the crop being one of the most traded commodities in the world.

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