Managers of cooperative societies in Central region are on high alert over a renewed trend in coffee theft days after robbers made away with cherry worth Sh3 million from Giakanja factory in Nyeri.
A leadership row pitting coffee farmers against the factory's management has been blamed for the spate of rising coffee thefts in the region.
According to Nyeri County Police Commander Adiel Nyange, there was no break-in at the factory where the 60 bags of parchment coffee had been stored in a warehouse.
There was also no scuffle reported between the robbers and the watchmen guarding the factory and no arrests have been made yet.
The former and current managers of Giakanja Coffee Factory situated in Tetu have been embroiled in wrangles over the control of the farmers' produce.
"We are not ruling that this could have been an inside job. The wrangles between the two managements could be a factor in the theft," said Mr Nyange.
Mid this month, 150 bags of parchment worth Sh6 million were stolen from Gathinja Coffee Factory in Murang'a County. Farmers accused the factory managers of abetting the crime.
The coffee is always ready for transportation to millers and marketers when it is stolen.
Mr Nyage assured farmers that the culprits in the theft will be brought to book regardless of their positions at the factory.
Many farmers expressed despair over fears of loss of money from coffee delivered to the factory, saying the theft was a major setback to their projected proceeds.
"We were very hopeful of getting some money after the sale of our coffee but it is all lost," said Mr Peter Maina, a farmer. He added that most of the stolen coffee is never recovered.
But the management of the factory said the coffee is normally insured.
In 2016, the region witnessed a spate of coffee thefts that saw farmers in the region lose about 800 bags of produce worth more than Sh157 million.
Nyeri County was worst hit by the thefts.
Farmers resorted to uprooting their coffee in despair, resulting in the collapse of some cooperatives.
In the last two years, the county has not seen any cases of coffee theft.
To curb the theft, the Coffee Directorate came up with a raft of measures to stem the menace. Key among them was ensuring that beans delivered for processing must have proper documents of origin.
The county also liaised with coffee cooperatives and security officers to safeguard parchment in various factory stores.
Currently, a majority of cooperatives are in the process of transporting their coffee for sale.
"All factories with parchment in the stores should liaise with security bodies to ensure it is secured," the police commander said, adding that evaluators are looking into the exact value of the stolen coffee.