Licensing issues causing delays in coffee milling for Kenyan farmers

Coffee farmers being taught best farming practices during a meeting at Mutitu coffee factory in Kandara, Murang’a. [Boniface Gikandi,Standard]

Coffee farmers across the country have protested delays in milling operations which they claim is hampering efforts to effectively revive the sector.

In the implementation of the coffee reforms, milling plants associated with the estate farmers were closed after they failed to comply with set regulations.

Immediately after the closure of the privately owned facilities, farmers were forced to relocate their produce to those that had been licensed.

The chairman of Ngutu factory in Mathioya, John Mucheke said they support reforms but claimed that the limited licensing of the coffee mills has negatively impacted their business.

Mucheke said the majority of the millers closed down after they were unable to acquire the required licenses.

“The coffee sector wants the matter to be addressed by the government as hundreds of farmers are back nurturing their crops with a focus on increased production,” said Mucheke.

Ms. Jackie Ogeto from Kisii said she had to remove her 500 bags of coffee from Sasini Mills in Kiambu to another mill as she shouldered the cost of transportation.

“The implementation of reform has been a nightmare as thousands of tonnes returned to the farmers,” said Ogeto.

Farmers say cannot mill the entire harvest thus the delay to take the produce to the market.
In Murang’a County, the management of the Iyego Farmers’ Cooperative Society says the delay in milling their produce has affected their business.

Mt Kenya Coffee Farmers Forum says the issue should be resolved to end the challenges emerging in the sector following the lack of millers with capacity.

Chairman of Gatagua Society, Harrison Chege said the milling of coffee is a major problem that should be resolved without further delay.

Umoja Coffee Mills, Chege said, out of 800 bags that were delivered for milling only 394 bags are successful.

“The society management has given Umoja Mills an ultimatum up to Monday, failure to which we terminate the contract, and remove my 426 bags for another miller.
With the increased production in the farms there is the likelihood that some coffee could be milled in May,” said Mr Chege.

Chege disclosed that another 950 bags were delivered for milling at Thika coffee mills in the past week and milling completed and samples collected as the procedure demands.

Chairman of the Iyego Society Mr Njuguna Karatu said the government should look into ways of licensing more mills to end the chaos that cropped up when the coffee prices are improving.
“We have been making endless trips to Sagana’s NKPCU mills and the issue is terrible as more bags of coffee are piling up,” said Njuguna.

NKPCU Managing Director Timothy Mirugi said the milling capacity at Dandora, Sagana, and Meru is at 19.5 tonnes per hour.

Mirugi said NKPCU has been contracted by 75 per cent of the societies and estates as their milling agent.

“The mills are operating round the clock to deal with the demand for the facility.

Murang’a County Coffee Mill failed to close after it relocated from its Maragua town premises to Ikindu farm.

Murang’a Deputy Governor Stephen Munania has told President William Ruto that the factory has been incapacitated due to the lack of an electric transformer to facilitate supply.

“If this is done Murang’a farmers will mill their coffee at Ikundu farm where I am the coffee champion,” said Munania.

President Ruto while addressing the residents of Maragua town at Gakoigo chiefs office ordered Kenya Power to install the transformer without further delay.

Peter Gikonyo, chairman of the Kenya Coffee Producers Association pleads with the government to register a commercial mill to fast-track the milling of the produce from the estate farmers.

“A huge shipment of coffee is lying in the stores thus delaying the delivery of the same at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE),” said Gikonyo.

A source at the Coffee Directorate divulged that there are 18 operational coffee mills majority under the farmers’ unions, which are overwhelmed by the production.

“Initially NKPCU used to mill only 10 per cent of the production but reform opened more business to the farmers’ organisation,” said a senior manager.

Patrick Njoroge, a farmer in Kiambu accused the state of failure to address the concern as it allowed the middlemen-led mills to operate.

“The situation is pathetic as we have been waiting for our produce to be milled since January. We need more players to be licensed,” said Njoroge.

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