Executive Office of the Deputy President of Republic of Kenya
Farmers follow proceedings when Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua reopened the Nairobi Coffee Exchange on August 15, 2023 at Wakulima House Nairobi. PHOTO: DPCS

The government is deploying armed police officers in all coffee factories to curb theft of the commodity, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said on Tuesday.

 He spoke when he reopened of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange Auction brokers’ maiden sale at Wakulima House/KPCU, Nairobi, in a historic event attended by coffee farmers.

“The Cabinet Secretary for Interior Prof Kithure Kindiki has given instructions to the National Police Service to provide 24-hour armed security to all coffee factories to protect our produce from theft,” said the Deputy President.

The pronouncement of the Deputy President comes farmers and factories are suffering from losses due to theft. Hiring private security guards has not only been expensive, but also ineffective.

As part of the reforms in the coffee subsector, operations were suspended soon after the Coffee Stakeholders Conference in Meru County in June. Initially, coffee farmers could not access the auction centre to witness sale of their commodity to the international market.

“Indeed, the journey to putting the money to where it belongs- the pocket of the farmer- is firmly on course. The bell we ring today signifies that the small-scale farmer, who has been toiling and sweating for peanuts, will meet the buyer and negotiate the price of their coffee- not through middlemen,” Mr Gachagua said.

This even as he revealed that a section of marketers and millers opposed to the government’s decision to reform the coffee subsector are planning to frustrate and forestall the process by boycotting the market.

“We are ready despite the fight back. There is no turning back. We are determined and we urge farmers to remain calm and continue increasing production. We are also aware of a collusion of the cartels and persons in various institutions to frustrate the reforms and portray that the government does not know what it is doing,” said Mr Gachagua.

He explained that before the government embarked on the reforms, it had interrogated the same and was aware of the possible fightback by the cartels.

 “For avoidance of doubt the reforms in the coffee subsector are unstoppable. We are undertaking legal reforms towards making sure that farmers benefit at every stage. Let nobody blackmail the government or hold farmers hostage. We are going to organize that it is available and at the right price,” he said.

Among a raft of other changes, the Deputy President said it is also a milestone as the Direct Settlement System through the Cooperative Bank of Kenya has been implemented to ensure the farmer is paid on time.  

He said the auction will now be under the Capital Market Authority for purposes of ensuring there is stronger governance while the Agriculture and Food Authority will license buyers. This is part of the government’s strategy of strengthening structural systems in the coffee subsector.

He said farmers are demoralised because they cannot meet their daily needs even with the lucrative cashcrop.

“Low prices are one of the reasons production has dropped from an average of over 130,000 metric tonnes in the late 1980s to as low as 34,000 metric tonnes. We want to boost the crop production per bush from an average of 2kg to about 8kg in the next one year as we target at least 200,000MT by 2027,” he said.

Stating that government will not give in to blackmail by the cartels, the Deputy President said all necessary measures are being taken to cushion coffee farmers and safeguard the commodity at the factory and cooperatives. 

 These include setting aside a kitty to buy the coffee beans from the growers if the marketers and millers boycott and supplying cheap fertiliser to the growers so as to increase farm yields.

He stated that the alleged crisis in the coffee sector is about the brokers and cartels fighting back to continue getting what is not due to them while President William Ruto’s administration is insisting that the farmers must be adequately compensated for their sweat.

 “It will not be easy. It will be messy and ugly but the outcome is beautiful and farmers will smile all the way to the bank. We shall walk the journey together. Bringing farmers to the auction is the first step to bring farmers to the centre of the trade,” said the Deputy President.

 He added that the government is reviewing the Coffee Act and the Cooperatives Act, so as to entrench the reforms for sustained benefit to the farmer.

The Deputy President was accompanied by Cabinet Secretaries Simon Chelugui (Ministry of Cooperatives & Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) and Mithika Linturi (Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development) among other government officials and coffee subsector stakeholders.