Nairobi — Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has appealed to the Colombia National Coffee Federation to collaborate with Kenyan farmers to improve yields and better returns.
Speaking during a meeting with hundreds of coffee farmers in Chinchina County, Caldas State in Colombia, who are members of the Federation, the Deputy President said Kenya had a lot to learn from the South American nation as it revives the sector.
"We would like you to help us as we bring back the Coffee Research Foundation as we borrow good lessons on your research capacity in this country. We are amazed that you have been able to bring 540, 000 farmers under one federation. This is a lesson we want to learn from you," said Gachagua.
The DP was accompanied by his host Vice President Francia Elena Marquez Mina during the meeting and subsequent visit to the Naranjal Research Farm in the State.
He said Colombia is a world leader in Coffee production pleading with the nation to share its successes.
"The world market is huge. We are not in competition. We are requesting the Colombia Federation to partner with us because we are open to discussions on partnering so you can market our coffee in your markets," he said.
Mr Gachagua said the revival of the sector was on course adding that the Kenya Coffee Research Foundation will be revamped to ramp up efforts to make coffee farming profitable again.
"We want you to help us in matters research. We had a very good research station, the Coffee Research Foundation, but because policy mistakes, research was abandoned and as a result we have not come up with better varieties that are disease resistant," he stated.
The government hopes to increase the productivity of coffee from two kilograms of cherry per tree per year to 10 kilograms and increase area under production from 116,000 Hectares to 170,000 Hectares.
Another measure is revival of key institutions such as the Coffee Research Institute, the Coffee Board of Kenya and reintroduction of agricultural extension officers at the villages.
While welcoming closer collaboration with the Colombia government, the DP affirmed the Kenya Kwanza administration's quest to directly penetrate the global coffee market instead of relying on brokers.
"We produce high quality coffee but our farmers take nothing home. Thirty years ago, we were producing 200, 000 metric tonnes a year but because of poor prices the farmers got demoralised along the way and the yield went down. We are now at 51,000 metric tonnes a year," he observed.
He said it was no longer tenable to let the industry exist at the behest of self-seeking middlemen out to exploit hardworking farmers.
"Our problem is not the soils, the rain is good, farmers are hardworking but the people buying our coffee have denied us access to the world market. Our struggles to penetrate the market have been frustrated. The brokers smile all the way to the bank as the coffee farmers cry all the way to the farms. That is the sad situation we find ourselves in," he said.
The government is also supporting the modernization and digitization of the coffee processing infrastructure.
The DP is accompanied by Principal Secretaries Julius Korir (Cabinet Affairs, ODP), Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok, the Chairperson of the Senate's Agricultural Committee and Kirinyaga Senator Kamau Murango, his Nyeri counterpart Senator Wahome Wamatinga, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Coffee Caucus and Nyeri MP Duncan Mathenge and a group of coffee farmers from various counties. - DPPs