For twelve months now, the Kenya Cooperative Planters Union (KPCU) has been unsuccessful in its attempt to secure a coffee trading licence. Its failure to procure one threatens over 700,000 farmers and is the result of an ongoing dispute that has blighted the coffee industry in Kenya for some time now.
The board has said that its inability to be granted a licence will force its members to deal with an “cartel” of middlemen.
KPCU chair, William Gatei, spoke on the issue, directing damning words towards the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority.
“The authority is using a repealed law that says you must deposit at least Sh100 million to be able to trade. This is not forgetting that the Coffee Directorate owes us Sh1.2 billion,” he said to Kenyan newspaper The Star recently.
The coffee trade is regulated under the Crops Act, No 16 of 2013, though the current cabinet secretary, Felix Koskei, has made moves to suspend an article that relates to the issuance of licences and permits.
Critics of Koskei say that this is a blatant attempt to fix the system and ensure only favourable parties are awarded the necessary paperwork.
The current government has denied that there is any wrongdoing within the sector, even when faced with piles of evidence to the contrary. Last year, The Daily Nation published a story that provided proof cartels, thanks in part to active legislation.
Many hold the belief that because the KPCU competes with rival entities that have links to prominent politicians, they get the rough end of the stick.
Back in 2014, the union called for an investigation into the actions of Patrick Musyimi who was accused of attempting to sabotage the KPCU’s management structure. Allegedly, the former minister illegally arranged an election to determine who would run the union, the results of which he attempt to impose, despite it being declared null and void by the High Court.
The rift between the KPCU and government ministers has been a running theme for years and there seems to be no end in sight.