New KPCU to set up Sh20m coffee advisory services lab in Meru

coffee
coffee

What you need to know:

  • Tasters will help in grading of the coffee after samples are roasted and milled.
  • Estate farmers were shocked when they were told that their produce had a milling loss of about 18 per cent.
  • Farmers in Meru will access Sh24 million cherry advance for parchment of 6,400 bags delivered to the mill.

The New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (New KPCU) is setting up a Sh20 million coffee laboratory at its Meru mill that will be used to offer advisory services to farmers.

Senior advisor at the Agriculture ministry Julius Kimathi said they have bought basic equipment such as a roaster and a grinder which will be used to process samples but the lab would be fully equipped when more funds are allocated.

“This is one of the services that farmers will get free of charge. We want to give them advisory services to enable them improve the quality of coffee they produce,” Mr Kimathi said on Friday when he invited coffee farmers to witness milling of their coffee.

He said Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya had tasked them with the responsibility of ensuring that all operations are above board.

New KPCU chief liqueurer Anthony Ndung’u said they have sought services of tasters who will help in grading of the coffee after samples are roasted and milled.

Coffee grading

“Grading of coffee is done using the process we technically refer to as ‘cupping’ involving roasting samples, grinding and brewing the coffee for tasting, which farmers have never been exposed to,” said Mr Ndung’u.

“After grading we will invite them and explain how proper crop husbandly affects coffee grade on which their earnings are based,” he added.

It is through this process that milling loss – which some unscrupulous millers use to defraud farmers of their produce, sparking controversy – is also determined.

One of the tactics coffee millers use to steal from farmers is declaration of milling loss, which arises after beans are milled into clean coffee. It ranges between 18 and 24 per cent with some millers declaring a loss of 24 per cent where it was 18 per cent.

Milling loss

During the exercise, the estate farmers were shocked when they were told that their produce had a milling loss of about 18 per cent.

“This is historical because since we started milling here the loss has been fluctuating between 20 and 24 per cent. A few years back it went up to 27 per cent which was outright theft of our coffee,” said Mr Charles Mutwiri, a farmer who had delivered his coffee for milling.

Last week, New KPCU Chairman Henry Kinyua announced that farmers in Meru will access Sh24 million cherry advance for parchment of 6,400 bags delivered to the mill.

The advance was based on last average price of the commodity at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange with the consignment at the mill being valued at Sh80 million, he said.

“We want our farmers to know that we are serious in our efforts to revive the sector. The Sh3 billion cherry advance is a reality and what farmers need is just to fill in their forms and access the money. This cash will go directly to the farmer’s pocket with no deductions,” he said last week when he announced that New KPCU would start milling the coffee.

Mr Kinyua said all farmers, regardless of where their coffee was milled, are eligible for the advance, with the restriction only applying to estate farmers who should deliver their parchment to New KPCU to access the funds.

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