Photograph — Aureus

Tea is one of Kenya’s key foreign earners. The country is the largest tea exporter in the world. As of 2016, Kenya supplied 27 percent of the total global sales, making it the largest tea exporter in the world, thanks to its premium black varieties. On the other hand, coffee, another mainstay for the country, has nosedived for more than two decades since 1995, due to poor regulations and government noninvolvement in the sub-sector. 

The government has neglected field extension services to family growers, making the farmers vulnerable to intermediaries who have exploited them for decades. Whereas, in the 1980s extensive research which had led to the introduction of coffee varieties were being carried out. While Kenya ranks as the 5th coffee grower in the continent, Africa accounts for about 12 percent of the world’s production, but coffee connoisseurs place a high value on its beans.

These could be why Kenya is launching a Ksh 1.5 billion ($15 million) revitalisation programme that is aimed at protecting tea and coffee farmers from exploitation and safeguarding the sectors. Backed by the World Bank, the programme is Kenya’s latest move to recover the sector.

The programme was recently launched by Peter Munya, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, and will focus on the eight counties that account for about 70 percent of the country’s coffee production. In a statement, Munya said, “we are focusing on improving production and quality of coffee by reviving its growth, training and supporting farmers with quality seeds, extension services, refurbishing of coffee factories and mills, improving storage and sourcing of markets,”

This new programme will complement the government’s $30 million Coffee Cherry Revolving Fund regulation that was introduced in January to provide easy access to affordable loans to smallholder farmers. The regulation eliminated middlemen in the sub-sector and made being a part of a co-operative the condition to access the $30 million fund.

This new programme Kenya is adopting is also a build-up on a 2018 Senate bill which was aimed at establishing a Tea Regulatory Authority, making licensing of tea farms mandatory. The bill was sponsored by Peter Munya, who was the country’s Industry, Trade and Cooperative Cabinet Secretary at the time, with an objective to restrict exports of raw tea and coffee to “compel players in the two sectors to make value addition a part of their production processes.”

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