Reports emanating out of Kenya suggest that the national government has expressed cautious concerns that the country may lose their privileged position in the world’s coffee market because production levels are predicted to drop.
Currently, Kenya is producing in the region of 50,000 tonnes (metric) per year – a sharp decline from the nation’s peak of 130,000 tonnes which was achieved in the late 1980s.
During this period of prosperity coffee was one of the leading foreign exchange earners for the country, accounting for about 40% of Kenya’s export revenue.
Today, that figure is much lower and the crop lags behind tea, tourism and agriculture as a money spinner. Climatic challenges are seen as one of the main reasons for this drop, but, worryingly, so is amount of prime coffee growing land that has been lost to other industries.
According to Alfred Busolo, the interim director of the Agriculture Fisheries and Food Authority, the past decade has seen the coffee industry lose 60,000 hectares of arable land.
For example, commissioned reports have stated that key areas in the Kiambu, Murang’a and Nyeri regions are the most under threat to advancing new-build construction projects, while elsewhere in the country other plots are being transformed into grazing fields of livestock.
Not to mention the black cloud that has hung over the Nairobi-based KPCU.
But with exports slipping and the government sounding warnings, national decision makers are launching programmes in order to give the sector a shot in the arm.
“Even though the area [available to coffee farmers] has reduced, we have lined up a number of strategies to…enhance productivity [with] a view to reclaiming [Kenya’s] position in the global coffee market.”
Koskei went on to explain that during the 2013-14 season farmers were able to harvest some 825,000 bags of coffee, weighing in at just over 49,000 metric tonnes, which brought in some KSh 19 billion.