Coffee production drops by over four million kilos
By Muchiri Ndirangu
Coffee production in Nyeri County has declined from 28 million kilos of Cherry to around 24 million in the last two years indicating the daunting task of propping up the yield of green gold, potentially lucrative but faced with many challenges.
Nyeri Agriculture CEC James Wachihi said most of the solutions to the challenges are not with the government but the stakeholders, pointing to the need for farmers to grow out of government dependency on matters coffee and task their cooperatives to seek coffee marketing chains.
The CEC said the county government is working towards improving productivity through the initiation of the liming program. Increased soil acidity has been named as one of the challenges that have led to low productivity.
“This means most of the nutrients even when added through fertilizers are locked and therefore not available for the crop. And that is why in the last two years, we have been implementing the liming program,” he said.
“We have put about Sh50 million into the liming program and we are happy that when we follow up with the various cooperatives and factories, we have received good feedback that now it is starting to bear results.”
The county government has also acquired three soil scanning machines to ensure farmers understand their soil.
Land, he said, is a factor of production and therefore the need to understand its dynamics adding that before, farmers were practicing farming based on guesswork.
But the farmers are now being encouraged to measure their soils and get to know the nutrients that are available and get recommendations from extension offices for proper fertilizers and quantities so as to improve production.
Wachihi said the subsidized fertilizer program by the national government has been implemented adding that Nyeri County is leading in benefiting from the program.
This year, he said, the county finished its share of the stock at the Kiganjo National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores early and had written to the national government to be allowed to use the stocks in Sagana, Mwea, and Thika.
Farmers have responded well to the program, he said, and thanked the national government for allowing the county to access the stock in the other stores.
Nyeri has been benefitting prom subsidized fertilizer after the county was selected as a pilot county in the coffee revival.
“These are just ways to ensure we increase productivity because it is too low. If you look at the productivity per bush today, statistics are telling us that it is standing at around 1.5 kilos per bush,” he said.
“We have talked to various partners and they have told us that they have done trials and proved that one can get up to 100 kilos per tree,” he said.
Other challenges facing the sector include processing where most factories are still using very old technology leading to lose of efficiency.
“And as a county government, we have come up with a strategy of working with some factories and showcasing how to move in terms of proper technology,” he said.
He said the pulping equipment used currently in some of the factories need to be changed and move towards eco-pulpers which are more efficient so that the quality is not compromised.
Though the country produces high-quality coffee, some of the quality is lost at the processing level, he observed.
Others to be changed include the fermentation tanks and the drying beds. The county is also focusing on marketing saying the governor has been meeting potential buyers from abroad to look for a new market.
“And this is an engagement that we wish to continue with and we are sure that if we put our house in order our farmers are going to benefit in a big way,” he said.
He also called on farmers and the factories management to also, improve on matters governance and management saying that is an area with a major problem.