Coffee has been one of Kenya’s biggest exports since it was introduced to the country over a century ago.
The total cultivated area is estimated at 160,000 hectares, of which about a third is in large plantations and the rest is held by about 700,000 smallholders.
However, according to the 2021 Economic Survey, the sector declined by around 18% due to declining crop yields, mainly due to the severe effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The survey indicates that coffee production was recorded at 36,000 tonnes in the 2019-2020 season, down from 45,000 tonnes in the previous year.
During this period, the coffee production of the cooperatives decreased by 16.2 percent while that of the plantations also declined by 22.5 percent.
At the same time, however, export prices for unroasted coffee fell from 416.70 shillings per kilogram in 2019 to 512.40 shillings in 2020.
Cabinet Secretary for Trade and Industrialization Betty Maina said farmers should take advantage of the facilities that the private sector and government have put in place in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) to gain value for their products.
“We don’t want nobody to be idle, that’s why we invested in negotiating a free trade agreement with the US government because we need that market certainty,” he said. she said during a visit to the Africa Coffee Roasters (ACR) at the Athi River PTA factory on Thursday.
“We have also negotiated similar terms for the goods we produce in Kenya in our trade agreement with the UK and Europe.”
ACR is a Danish company which exports roasted coffee to countries such as Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany and Russia, and also sells it in the local market.
Managing Director Jacob Elsborg said that by roasting and packaging locally, the company has the shortest possible value chain from farmers to the end consumer.
Once the products leave the RCA, they go straight to the final warehouse and then to the stores.
âWe support small farmers with fair and on-time payments, and we are dedicated to several projects that help farmers increase their income,â Elsborg said.
âOne example is the Trace Kenya project funded by Danida in Denmark and a partnership between Solidaridad (NGO) and ACR, helping 15,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya to switch from conventional to certified organic farming, resulting in a price premium. ”
Despite the disruption to the coffee industry caused by the pandemic, ACR has significantly increased its volumes and revenue, the CEO said.
Some of the growth comes from sourcing coffee from other regions and being in the free zone has allowed the company to import coffee from Latin America for processing in Kenya.
âThe market in places like Europe demands coffee from all over the world. If we did not import green coffee from Latin America, jobs in Kenya would be lost and exports would decline, âElsborg said.
âProcessing foreign coffee here also allows the added value to stay in Kenya, allowing Kenya to earn money on coffee from other countries.
The company claims that since it began operations in Kenya, it has repaid more than $ 1 million (110 million shillings) in premiums to farmers and exported more than 3,000 tonnes of roasted coffee.