Government Puts Coffee Cartels on Notice
The government will withdraw licenses of millers and marketers that are colluding with coffee thieves to rip from farmers.
Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries cabinet secretary Willy Bett claimed that farmers in the country have in the last one year lost 465 bags of clean coffee worth about Sh10 million.
Speaking after meeting with coffee stakeholders in his office, the CS warned that Government will not relent but withdraw the licenses of those caught in the mayhem immediately
Industry actors have been complaining of coffee being stolen by cartels of prominent personalities in the industry, security officials, and unscrupulous traders who are assisted by coffee cooperative officials.
Bett stated that there is no way some coffee value chain players can absolve themselves from the blame saying the coffee cherries from cooperative societies ended somewhere and preferably to the millers and marketers before it was finally exported.
“Unethical trade behaviour is contributing to the grinding poverty farmers are reeling under. The theft is a well-coordinated game by various players who soon will be brought to book and subjected to the rule of law,” said Bett.
“If coffee is stolen from the farmer it must be taken somewhere and mostly likely to the miller and marketer,” he added.
Bett further explained that national government in collaboration with value chain players will work towards curbing the vice by employing technology aimed at enhancing traceability of all coffee produced in the country.
“The new initiative will heavily borrow from the horticulture industry so that once miller and marketers receive coffee from farmers, they are able to account by confirming where its coming from”, Bett said.
He called on the coffee cooperative management committee to insure their coffee with local insurance companies saying the ministry soon convene a meeting with police, Kenya Revenue Authority, County Governments, Judiciary and other players in the industry to discuss the matter deeply.
The Cabinet Secretary further stated that national Government is reaching out to Council of Governors and two other groups of farmers that sought legal redress against gazetted regulations to implement the Crops Act 2013.
“I am appealing to the various aggrieved stakeholders to agree to a roundtable meeting with the Government in the next 14 days with a view to reaching out to an outside court settlement.
This he added will fasten the gazzetment of the regulations and ensure coffee farmers issues are addressed.
In case the groups fail to agree to the out of court settlement, Bett stated that government will appeal to the judiciary to fast track the case so that it can end the stalemate.
Last year, the High Court suspended the coffee General Regulation 2016 following a suit filed the by the Council of Governors. Another farmers group from Nyeri County and an individual also moved to court to challenge the same.
Speaking on phone, chairman James Mureithi of the Coffee millers and marketers association defended the millers and marketers saying their business with farmers is guided by agreed principles.
“We do clean business and no way have we been involved in unethical trade bahaviours, however as part of the value chain players we share concern with farmers who have lost their hard earned cherries because of the bureaucracies in the Coffee Industry.
By Wangari Ndirangu