Kenya’s coffee is regaining its luster amid global price hikes

A worker works at a state grinder in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, on April 3, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)

A woman sorts coffee berries at the Rui Ruiru Coffee Factory in Mathira, Nyeri County, Kenya, Nov. 5, 2020 (Photo: Xinhua)

A woman sorts coffee berries at the Rui Ruiru Coffee Factory in Mathira, Nyeri County, Kenya, Nov. 5, 2020 (Photo: Xinhua)

After several years of suffering, the worst for coffee farmers in Kenya seems to be over as world market prices hit a new high.

A kilo of Kenyan coffee on the world market costs up to $ 7 and brings back the glory days for the country’s farmers.

Sometime in 2019, the world market price for a kilo of Kenyan coffee hit 189 shillings ($ 1.75), its lowest level in over three years.

Throughout the year, farmers did not sell their produce on the world market for more than $ 4 a kilo. The negative effects of the decline were felt in all regions where the crop is grown in the East African nation.

Many farmers received poor incomes this way, resulting in dejection with some uprooting the crops and replacing them with others they thought were valuable, such as avocados and macadamia.

Joseph Mwangi, a farmer in the central Kenyan county of Murang’a, is one of those who uprooted their coffee trees.

“I had coffee on three mornings but replaced the bushes with avocados on at least one morning, and the global market is stable,” said Mwangi.

Mwangi, like many other farmers, decided to keep some coffee bushes because they have a sentimental attachment to the crop that was grown by their ancestors.

The good times started in 2020 despite the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic that was affecting international trade as the year turned out to be one of the best for coffee farmers after generating record revenues.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed that the value of coffee exports rose 9.5 percent in 2020 to $ 202.2 million, although export volumes fell 11 percent in 2020 to 43,483 tons.

The positive effect was felt on dozens of cooperatives across the nation through which farmers export their produce.

For example, at the Thiriku cooperative in the central Kenyan district of Nyeri, farmers received $ 1.12 per kilo of coffee in 2020, the highest figure in about a decade, according to the company’s records.

At Muguga Society, also in Nyeri County, manager Gerald Mwangi said farmers made an average of $ 0.93 per kilogram.

And this is also the case with other coffee companies in the region, as the harvest brings cheers to many coffee-growing households.

And 2021 doesn’t seem to be any different, as global coffee prices continue to rise. In the first quarter of this year, the Kenyan coffee price on the world market was between six and seven US dollars, according to KNBS, which points to another good year despite the pressure of the pandemic.

In addition to rising world market prices, the reforms introduced by the Kenyan government in this sector and the direct sale of products to buyers abroad by the companies have also had a positive effect on farmers’ incomes.

A number of companies currently export their products directly to buyers in the US, the Netherlands and Denmark instead of selling them through the Nairobi Coffee Exchange.

The Kenyan government has initiated regulatory reforms in this sector and drafted a new law aimed at improving farmers’ incomes and the contribution of the harvest to the economy.

In addition, the government has set up a three billion shillings (about $ 30 million) revolving fund that coffee farmers can use to borrow cash to protect themselves from market volatility, pests, disease, and improve productivity.

Coffee is one of the main foreign exchange earners in Kenya. The harvest contributes around six percent to total export revenues and 0.3 percent to the country’s gross domestic product.

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