Here Is the Recipe of Turning Our Coffee from a Cash Crop to a ‘Wealth Crop’.

Last month, my friend Mueni bought a 250-grammes pack­et of Kenyan cof­fee beans in Paris at 9 Euros (Sh1,200). This means that 1 kilo of these cof­fee beans goes for Sh4,800. Mean­while cof­fee farm­ers in Kenya are being paid between Sh90 – 110 per kilo. Although there are many vari­ables that con­tribute to the even­tu­al price of cof­fee in for­eign mar­kets like France, it’s clear that Kenyan cof­fee farm­ers earn sub­stan­tial­ly less than they should. Yet as the actu­al cof­fee pro­duc­ers, they are the most impor­tant com­po­nents of the cof­fee val­ue chain.

Recent­ly, a 50-kilo­gramme bag of cof­fee fetched Sh23,095. The pre­vi­ous price had been Sh22,113. The Nairo­bi Cof­fee Exchange (NCE) attrib­uted this price increase to bet­ter qual­i­ty of the cof­fee bean. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, just as is the case with high cof­fee prices in the West, farm­ers are not auto­mat­ic ben­e­fi­cia­ries of this increase.

Kenya has about 800,000 small scale cof­fee farm­ers and mil­lions of cash crop farm­ers. They are the real cash crop cham­pi­ons and must be ful­ly facil­i­tat­ed to pro­duce high yield, high qual­i­ty cash crops that will earn the coun­try bil­lions in for­eign exchange annually.

Sev­er­al Coun­ties in Kenya are blessed with cash crops. Apart from cof­fee and tea which are our main cash crops, the oth­ers include pyrethrum, cot­ton, tobac­co and rice. They have all been plagued with so many chal­lenges over the years that it was not uncom­mon for farm­ers to uproot their crops.

A time has come for us to trans­form our cash crops into wealth crops that cre­ate wealth for gen­er­a­tions of farm­ers. For this to hap­pen, we must take three major steps.

First­ly, we must know our com­peti­tors and pro­duce opti­mal yields to meet the needs of an ever-grow­ing mar­ket. The glob­al mar­ket is a bru­tal bat­tle­ground where only the best and bright­est sur­vive. Even Brazil, which is the world’s lead­ing cof­fee pro­duc­er, lost some mar­ket share in 2020 and 2021. This was occa­sioned by bad weath­er. Oth­er cof­fee pro­duc­ers like Kenya seized this oppor­tu­ni­ty to expand their mar­ket share. Brazil is how­ev­er back, which means that the glob­al cof­fee mar­ket is more com­pet­i­tive this year.

Cof­fee is the sec­ond most trad­ed com­mod­i­ty in the world. More than nine bil­lion kilo­grams of cof­fee are pro­duced annu­al­ly. In Africa, Ethiopia is the lead­ing cof­fee pro­duc­er, fol­lowed by Ugan­da, Ivory Coast and Tan­za­nia. Kenya comes in fifth accord­ing to busi­ness insid­er Africa. In the eight­ies, Kenya’s cof­fee pro­duc­tion peaked at 130,000 met­ric tonnes. Today, we are pro­duc­ing less than 50,000 tonnes. We must reclaim our lost glo­ry not just in cof­fee but sev­er­al oth­er cash crops like cot­ton and pyrethrum.

Sec­ond­ly, we can only con­quer the glob­al mar­ket if we pro­duce world class cash crops whose qual­i­ty is assured.

Late last year, Japan warned Kenya about the use of non-rec­om­mend­ed pes­ti­cides in cof­fee pro­duc­tion. Because of this, Kenya was at risk of los­ing the Sh1.5 bil­lion Japan­ese cof­fee mar­ket. The pre­vi­ous year in 2020, South Korea banned Kenya’s cof­fee because it con­tained high lev­els of Ochra­tox­in, a harm­ful chem­i­cal. We can­not keep mak­ing such inex­cus­able blun­ders. The Min­istries of Agri­cul­ture and Trade must ensure and guar­an­tee the qual­i­ty of our agri­cul­tur­al products.

Final­ly, these mea­sures can only be suc­cess­ful through good cash crop gov­er­nance in the Nation­al Gov­ern­ment, Coun­ty Gov­ern­ment, Cash Crops Fac­to­ries, Farm­ers Coop­er­a­tives and the entire cash crop val­ue chain.

We often focus a lot on the car­tels and mid­dle­men who eat into farm­ers’ earn­ings. How­ev­er, they are only able to do so because of bad gov­er­nance at all lev­els, includ­ing for­eign play­ers who col­lude with and enable them.

Kenya’s cof­fee must pri­mar­i­ly ben­e­fit cof­fee farm­ers and all Kenyans as a whole. The same applies to all the oth­er cash crops. Any­thing less than this must not be tol­er­at­ed. Doing so will com­pro­mise the wealth of this gen­er­a­tion of Kenyans and future gen­er­a­tions. Think green act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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