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Audit of coffee debts begin

A task force has begun the process of auditing coffee debts as part of the reforms aimed at reviving the ailing sector.

However, this is despite a pending case in court blocking the team from implementing its report.

The task force was formed by President Kenyatta and is expected to look at the value chain in the coffee industry and ensure farmers get good remuneration for their produce.

This comes after President Kenyatta, during his central region tour, announced a Sh2.4 billion waiver on coffee farmers’ debts.

He also directed farmers who had surrendered their title deeds as security for loans to collect them as the fund had been deposited at Cooperative Bank.
According to the task force’s implementation committee chairman, Prof Joseph Kieyah, they are in the process of acquiring an organisation that will “be looking into the debts that the coffee cooperatives have accumulated beyond the debt that has been waived.”

The committee has also formed a legal and regulatory sub-committee that reports on the status of the legal matters in court over the coffee sub-sector.

DEMANDING IMPLEMENTATION

Some coffee farmers and the Council of Governors went to court demanding the implementation of the report by the coffee task force stopped.

New National Farmers’ Association chairman Harrison Munyi argued that the team did not include farmers’ views and only featured prominent personalities in the coffee industry leaving out ordinary growers.

“The farmers were misadvised and the task force is at the centre of the farmer. We are trying to protect the property rights of the farmer,” said Prof Kieyah.

He said the committee is in a process of developing a blueprint on how short-term recommendations of the task force can be rolled out within the first quarter of the committee’s sitting.

The chairman said the priority is to increase coffee production in the country from the current 40,000 metric tonnes to more than 47,000 metric tonnes projected next year by providing subsidized farm inputs.

“Before the beginning of the April coffee planting season, we want to roll out short term recommendations that will increase production at a lower cost,” he said adding that the high cost of input have caused a decline in production.

Further, he stated that the Department of Agriculture has already undertaken preliminary steps to rehabilitate the coffee processing machines in factories.

“The factories too are very old and we will rehabilitate them and connect them to the grid,” he said.

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