kenyas Coffee Industry

Coffee Farming in Kenya was first introduced in 1896 by the missionaries. Coffee is Kenya’s fourth leading foreign exchange earner after tourism, tea and horticulture. The coffee industry has been one of the key pillars of Kenya’s economy since independence.

The sector has been a significant earner of foreign exchange for the economy and provider of jobs. Kenyan coffee is well known for its intense flavor, full body, and pleasant aroma with notes of cocoa.

Coffee from Kenya is of the ‘mild arabica’ type with a distinctly bright acidity and potent sweetness with a dry winy aftertaste. Among the best Kenya coffee, one can find intoxicating black-currant flavor and aroma, according to the Coffee Board of Kenya.

The major coffee growing regions in Kenya are the High Plateaus around Mt. Kenya, the Aberdares Range and some parts of Nyanza and Rift Valley. The high plateaus of Mount Kenya, plus the acidic soil provide excellent conditions for growing coffee.

A total of 150,000 hectares of arable land in Kenya is planted with coffee. It is estimated that over 700,000 small-scale and large-scale farmers are involved in coffee farming. About 60-70% of Kenyan coffee is produced by small scale holders. In addition, the coffee industry, due to its forward and backward linkages, directly and indirectly benefits about 5 million people in the country.

The following conditions favour its production in the country:

Temperature – Coffee does well under temperatures of 14 to 26°C although Arabica coffee can tolerate temperatures of upto 30°C. In Kenya the coffee growing areas experience cool to hot climate ideal for coffeee growing. The temperatures average 15°— 30°C.

Rainfall – Arabica coffee requires rainfall ranging between 1000 and 2 000 mm per annum. Many coffee growing areas in Kenya receive high rainfall of about 1000 — 2000 mm which is well distributed.

Soils – Most of the growing areas in Kenya have fertile deep volcanic soils which are suitable for coffee. The soils are well drained and are acidic with a pH of between 5.3 and 6.0.

Topography – The coffee growing areas have undulating landscape with hill slopes and gentle slopes. This has ensured well drained and aerated soils.

Altitude – Most of the growing areas have a high altitude ranging between 610 m and 1,830 m.

Transport – The growing areas have good roads which has enabled the crop to be transported to the buying centres and factories. This has also helped in marketing of the processed berries.

Coffee growing is labour intensive. A lot of manual labour is required for. Planting, running and harvesting. The dense population in the growing areas has provided a source of labour.

Nursery and Field Practices

Coffee plants are planted in a nursery regularly watered and shaded where they germinat.Lines of holes three metres apart are dug in the main field.

Manure/fertilisers are added and regularly watered.
The seedlings are transplanted into the holes in the main field.
The seedlings are sheltered from strong sunlight either by trees or artificially made shades.
Dry leaves are laid around the stem of the seedling to provide mulching/conserve moisture.
From then to the fifth year, the plant is pruned, weeded, sprayed and manured regularly.
By around the third to the fifth year the plant attains maturity and the beans are harvested.
Harvesting involves manual picking of the red berries leaving the green ones to ripen.

 

Processing of Coffee in Kenya

The ripe berries are transported to the factory where they are weighed.
They are then taken through a machine which removes the outer covering pulp.
The berries are fermented for a while before curing by drying in the sun for one week.
After curing, machines peel off two layers of inner husks before the berries are winnowed and graded.

The beans are then sorted out according to size and quality.
After this they are roasted at temperatures of about 100°C before being ground into powder.

Coffee beans are processed and graded by the size of the beans-AA is the largest followed by A and B. After milling, coffee beans are graded mechanically into various grades, which differ in size, shape and weight. Color-sorting machines separate high quality coffee beans from light and defective ones. AA has good size formation of large beans and usually fetches the highest price. AB is a combination of two grades- A and B. The grades are subjected to a vigorous classification by the Liquoring Department of the CBK.

Coffee beans are processed and graded by the size of the beans-AA is the largest followed by A and B. After milling, coffee beans are graded mechanically into various grades, which differ in size, shape and weight. Color-sorting machines separate high quality coffee beans from light and defective ones. AA has good size formation of large beans and usually fetches the highest price. AB is a combination of two grades- A and B. The grades are subjected to a vigorous classification by the Liquoring Department of the CBK. 

Marketing of Coffee in Kenya

Kenya has two coffee marketing systems: Central auction system and direct sale. The central

auction is a market where licensed dealers buy coffee through competitive bidding every Tuesday. Coffee is traded once a week at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. The coffee is packed in single sisal bags of 60 kg, but the bids are made per 50 kg bag.

The coffee exchange is under the management of the Kenya Coffee Producers and Traders Association. A direct sale requires a marketing agent to directly negotiate with a buyer and a sales contract is signed and registered with the coffee board. Commercial Marketing agents offer services for commercial purposes while grower marketers are growers licensed to market their own coffee.

Role of the Government of Kenya in Promoting Coffee Farming

The Government of Kenya has taken several steps to assist small scale coffee farmers in Kenya including:

Conducting research on new species of coffee and methods of controlling pests and diseases.

Constructing new roads and improving existing ones in the growing areas to enhance the transportation of coffee.

Through the Ministry of Agriculture the government has provided extension workers to advice the farmers on better methods of coffee farming.

Through the KPCU and other financial institutions, the government has advanced loans to farmers to assist them to improve on their farming.

Through Coffee Board of Kenya, the government helps farmers to market their coffee.

Challenges in the coffee sector in Kenya

Soil exhaustion: Soils have been exhausted since coffee places a high demand on soil nutrients.

Price fluctuations: Fluctuation of prices in the world markets discourages the farmers.

Pests and diseases: Pests and diseases like leaf rust, coffee berry disease, root rot destroy the crops reducing the yields.

Limited land for expansion: The available land is facing competition from other well paying crops offered by the horticultural sector. Coffee farmers therefore may not expand quite easily.

Delayed payments: Delayed payments to farmers for the crop delivered. This lowers their morale in coffee production.

Shortage of labour: At times there is shortage of labour. This occurs mainly during the harvesting period, and the situation has been worsened by the HIV (AIDS) pandemic.

Competition in the world market: Kenyas coffee industry still faces competition in the world market due to flooding occasioned by over production.

Mismanagement: Coffee co-operative societies have been mismanaged leading to embezzlement of funds. This has led to low income for the farmers.

Poor roads: Some of the feeder roads in the growing areas are poorly maintained and impassable during the rainy season. This has made it difficult for the farmers to deliver their produce on time to the processing factories.

Low local consumption –Kenya performs dismally in consumption of its coffee at just about 7% consumption of its coffee. Despite several initiatives by the Coffee Board of Kenya and the government, the coffee culture is yet to penetrate into the culture of the average Kenyan consumer.

Competition with other economic activities – The growth of horticultural crops for  export forced farmers to dump coffee for produce with higher and more stable prices.

The growth of population in Central Kenya and Nairobi has placed huge pressure for the farm owners in to convert their farms to other economic activities like real estate.

Climate change– Climate change has led to unpredictable weather patterns hence reduced production. Regular droughts and less rainfall in marginal areas has led to reduced production.

High production costs -rise in production cost due to inflationary pressure within the country and massive resurgence of the Coffee Berry Disease. Most farmers incurred costs in disease control that took up a total of 30% of the market prices. High production costs are experienced from high input prices, high credit costs, high milling and transport costs

Problematic Regulatory Environment Hindering further growth in the sector value chain are restrictive trade barriers put in place by the Coffee Act. High licensing fees provide further disincentive to the sector.

Importance of Coffee Farming in Kenya

Foreign exchange –For many years, coffee was the leading foreign exchange earner before the sector was mismanaged. However, it still earns some revenue which has been used in the country’s development.

Employment – Coffee growing has offered employment to many Kenyans. This has been directly e.g through the picking of coffee and indirectly through the related industries.

Development of industries – Coffee growing has contributed to the development of coffee relatedindustries e. g coffee processing factories. This has helped in industrialisation of the country.

High standards of living – Through the direct sale of their crops, farmers have earned income from coffee. This has raised their standard of living.

Development of infrastructure – Due to coffee growing, roads have been constructed to link the growing areas to the factories. Others have been graded and improved. This has led to improvement of infrastructure in the country.