“Kenya. All sides, severe gale 9. Stormy. Poor.”
The back-and-forth jousting and political manoeuvring that has blighted the Kenyan coffee industry over the past couple of years is set to enter a new phase of confrontation and delays.
In a bid to secure permits, the Kenya Planters Co-operative Union (KPCU) has gone to court claiming that the authorities are once again treating them unfairly.
The union is alleging that the Coffee Directorate has barred it from the Nairobi Coffee Auction and was denied an ISO certificate in a bid to push it towards bankruptcy.
On top of this, there are longstanding rumours that that the authorities have purposefully denied the union from obtaining the necessary farming permits for its members.
KPCU’s chair, William Gatei, says that because of this roadblock, farmers are suffering and losing out financially.
“We now have more than 800 bags [of coffee] stuck in Kenyena, Kisii,” Gatei said. Without the relevant permits, neither the union nor the farmers can legally transfer their produce to Nairobi to be sold on at auction.
“This is happening in other areas as well. It is a deliberate attempt to push farmers into [the] hands of selected players,” he continued.
Shortly after Gatei’s statement, Justus Kiago, the union’s director of operations, repeated allegations that the authorities were acting in the interest of some favourable parties.
“We have a letter that seeks to bar us under repealed or draft regulations,” Kiago stated.
“I think the fact that we pay farmers in cash immediately when they give us coffee beans is a threat to some players since they pay farmers after five months.
“We will not allow farmers to suffer when the very regulator who is meant to protect them has turned against their own.”
To add further intrigue to the story, the Competitions Authority of Kenya (CAK) has recently singled out the agricultural sector as one that needs to be investigated given the rampant rumours of ‘anti-competitive conducts’.
Last year, a newspaper published a story that exposed instances of price-fixing within the sector.