CCTV cameras and floodlights will be installed at coffee factories under the Mitheru Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Tharaka Nithi County to curb rampant theft of the cherry.
More than 1,500 farmers who deliver their produce to the Gancikeru, Bue, Iriani and Njaina factories also want the cherry to be insured while it is at the factories to cover any loss if it is stolen before being delivered to the miller.
Speaking yesterday during a farmers’ meeting at the offices in Muthambi ward, the society’s chairman John Micheni said 200 bags of coffee worth over Sh8 million that were stolen from the Njaina factory in June had not been recovered.
“Lighting the factories will keep off thieves and in case they steal, CCTV cameras will capture their images, including the registration number of the vehicle that they will use to carry the coffee,” said Mr Micheni.
He said the project is expensive but it is necessary because the loss that farmers incur from thefts is huge.
Despite collaborating with government investigative agencies, he lamented, it was difficult to find coffee once it was stolen.
He said theft of coffee not only discourages poor farmers but also puts them in a difficult situation because most of them acquire farm inputs including fertiliser through loans.
Plans are also underway to install computerised weighing machines in factories so that the amount of coffee delivered by each farmer can reflect in the office in order to enhance transparency and accountability.
He said this will reduce complaints from the farmers and make work easier for clerks because they will do away with paper records.
“We want to ensure that farmers do not encounter losses and are happy with the services that we are giving them,” he said.
On payments for delivered coffee, Mr Micheni said farmers had agreed to wait for a maximum of three weeks to allow Tharaka Nithi Millers and New Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (NKPCU) millers to sell all the milled coffee.
But he noted that farmers who cannot wait will receive advance payment that will not attract any interest.
Farmer Micheni Njagi expressed confidence that farmers will be paid between Sh80 to Sh100 per kilogram.
In the last payment, he said, some factories paid as much as Sh70 per kilogram following government reforms in the sector.
“Coffee farming was the major source of income in this region back in the 1980s and we are sure the government is taking it back there because a few years ago we used to be paid as low as Sh20 per kilogram,” Mr Njagi said.