DP Rigathi Gachagua to lead coffee summit in Meru

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, mukami kimathi funeral

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

Photo credit: DPCS

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua will next week lead a coffee summit, a crucial three-day meeting to discuss the troubles in the sub-sector and the role of cooperatives in reviving the multi-billion-shilling industry.

This, says Mr Gachagua, will be the beginning of discussions that will also include the dairy and tea subsectors through the empowerment of farmers' cooperatives.

Mr Gachagua says the reforms are ongoing and are aimed at restoring the dignity of our farmers in line with the bottom-up economic transformation agenda.

The DP has convened a special coffee summit in Meru next week to ensure that farmers are paid better for their produce.

“For sustainable gainful reforms in these subsectors, cooperatives are central components in uplifting our small-scale farmers to economic independence and prosperity. To this effect, the cooperative movement must roar back to life by instituting necessary reforms,” Mr Gachagua said in a statement shared with the Nation.

Coffee production has plummeted from a high of 130,000 tonnes in the 1990s to just under 50,000 tonnes, while revenues have fallen from $500 million to $150 million.

Coffee farmers

The summit will take place from Thursday to Saturday and will bring together coffee farmers and all leaders in the Mt Kenya region.

“During the Summit, we will be able to collect further information and condense it to outcomes for sustainable reforms. There are legal, structural, operational and other systemic issues that will be streamlined to ensure sustainable reforms in the coffee subsector,” said the DP.

To entrench these reforms, Mr Gachagua has held several meetings with the Parliamentary Coffee Caucus on reforms, led by Githunguri MP Muthoni wa Muchomba.

The meeting identified laws, policies and regulations to be enacted or reviewed.

He has also held discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture and government agencies involved in the production and marketing of coffee, identifying constraints to better benefit farmers and making recommendations.

“The Deputy President has also engaged an expert from Ethiopia with the aim of learning good practices on running farmer-centred cooperatives, and how the country has managed to link the farmers directly to the consumers in the high-value markets like the US,” Mr Gachagua noted.

Mr Gachagua held consultative meetings with one of the largest coffee marketers in Nebraska, US, to gain insights into customer demands, and the supplier confirmed that Kenyan coffee is one of the most sought-after varieties and one of the most expensive brands because of its distinctive taste.

Penetrating high-end markets

“The expert shared marketing strategies of penetrating high-end markets for better returns for the Kenyan farmer. The emphasis was on selling the distinct flavour and aroma, which in many occasions, is even used to upgrade coffee from other parts of the world," the statement continued.

During the visit by Colombian Vice President Francia Marquez, Mr Gachagua and the South American leader explored ways of working together to penetrate high-value markets such as Canada, Belgium and the US.

During this year's election campaign, the Kenya Kwanza government, while chasing votes in Mt Kenya, promised to revamp the three sub-sectors, promising farmers a guaranteed minimum return for the sector that is the region's economic mainstay.

The DP's brother, the late first governor of Nyeri, Nderitu Gachagua, attempted to organise the industry in Nyeri by bypassing the cartels at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, hoping to sell coffee directly so that farmers would get better prices, but the cartels fought back viciously.