Kenya: Government to Establish a Coffee Research Institution as It Seeks to Combat Dwindling Fortunes

A farmer dries coffee(file photo).
13 February 2020

Mombasa — The national government has announced that it will establish a coffee research institution, as a measure to revive coffee farming and production in the country amidst dwindling fortunes.

Principal Secretary of the State Department for Agricultural Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation Hamadi Boga says plans are underway to establish the Coffee Research Institute at an undisclosed amount.

This comes even as the amount of coffee exported continues to drop.

In March 2019, data by the US Department of Agriculture attache in Nairobi revealed that Kenyan coffee production in the 2019-2020 financial year dropped to 650,000 bags, the lowest production in over 50 years.

Similarly, Boga said Kenya has been exporting about 44,000 metric tonnes, down from 140,000 metric tonnes it used to export annually.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that agriculture contributes 26 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and another 27 percent of the GDP indirectly, through linkages with other sectors.

"Kenya still remains an agro-based economy. We need to give confidence to our farmers and tackle the problem of governance around corporative societies in coffee sector," he said.

Boga was speaking during the official opening of the two-day 18th Africa Fine Coffee Conference and Exhibitions where he said government's main focus going forward was investing in research through the establishment of the Coffee Research Institute.

"The government has agreed to finance the Coffee Research Institute, that will help us come with drought-resistance crops, value addition techniques and ways of attracting youth into coffee farming," said Boga.

-Younger coffee consumers

The establishment of the Institute comes at the back of a study revealing that older people farm coffee more while young people consume it more.

The 2018 Economic Viability study on Coffee conducted by Kenya Coffee Platform revealed that 50 percent of coffee farmers are 60 years and above.

The average age of Kenyan coffee consumers is 17 years.

"We have a younger population that consumes coffee, but we do not have farmers. We need to push our younger generation into coffee farming," said Boga.

Meanwhile, Africa Fine Coffee Association (AFFCA) chairperson Ishak Lukenge said majority of African countries have been facing challenges in the agricultural sector.

Lukenge said urbanization of agricultural land, old-age farmers and lack of value addition companies are the common challenges with the coffee growing nations.

"Many countries have been undergoing urbanization and our youth are not interested in farming. We need to start attracting youth into coffee growing," he said.

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