By Prof Joseph Kieyah

Restructuring the coffee sub-sector is urgent policy imperative. Since last year, the public discontent on the status of the coffee industry has in ltrated the public discourse and has continued to attract significant media attention. The once thriving sub-sector that enjoyed national prominence as a major foreign current earner and as source of livelihood for over 600,000 small scale farmers and their families is in crisis.

This is due to regulatory and institutional failure that compromised the proprietary interests of coffee farmers in general. In essence, coffee farmers disproportionately bear the burden of the value chain including the regulatory burden in form of statutory levies. Consequently, the coffee farmers’ earnings are relatively low, they have to wait for 6 to 8 months before they are paid.

Paradoxically, the downward trend of Kenya’s coffee production and
its contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has occurred despite its sterling performance in the international markets where it continues to enjoy premium prices because of its high quality. Taking cognizance of the problem, there have been several sectoral reforms in recent times. However, such reforms have been rendered ineffective by competing vested interests, which continue to hold hostage the government’s transformative agenda of revitalizing and restoring the sector as major foreign currency earner.

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