By Rootooba correspondent, 9 June 2020
Kenya is preparing to reclaim her share in the international coffee market in future, thanks to an ambitious programme by the government to provide adequate planting materials to farmers to boost production. In the current planting season, the ministry of agriculture under a programme component of the Big Four Agenda is expected to distribute 140,000 seedlings to smallholder farmers across the coffee growing counties.
According to Dr. Eliud Kireger, Director General, Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization’s (KALRO) provision of adequate planting materials is set to tame the decreasing production and thus enhance the country’s profile internationally.
“The developed seedlings will help farmers expand their farms as well as replace old varieties that are vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change,” said Dr. Kireger.
He mentioned this at the Coffee Research Institute (CRI) during the handing over of 140,000 seedlings to Paul Musyoka, who was representing the Principal Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry’s department of Crops development and Research, Professor Hamadi Boga.
Dr Kireger explained that development of the new varieties has over the years contributed to expansion of the area under coffee as farmers in non-traditional regions like Western and Rift valley regions were embracing the crop.
“This has been made possible through CRI’s partnership with value chain players, for example, Coffee Subsector Implementation Committee (CSIC),” Kireger added.
The World Bank had agreed to finance the Coffee value chain through ongoing projects, although there is need to develop strong working relationships among stakeholders Dr. Kireger revealed.
CSIC chairman Joseph Kieyah explained that the financing of the Ksh5.6 million project was part of the recommendations highlighted by the National Coffee Task Force Report 2016. Kenya peak production reached about 130,000 metric tonnes in 1987/88 production but owing to various factors the output has been oscillating between 40,000 and 50,000 metric tonnes.
“Production and access to quality coffee planting material have slowed coffee expansion and production. Currently, there is increased demand for Ruiru 11 and Batian varieties that are disease resistant,” he said.
“This trend in demand is expected to continue into the foreseeable future and CRI may not be in a position to meet the amount for coffee seedlings required by farmers due to limited funding.” He added.
The seedlings production initiative, Kieyah noted, is the committee’s contribution to the Big 4 Agenda and that the state department of crop development and agricultural research will be responsible for distribution of the seedlings.
He further added that the committee has further allocated CRI an additional sum of Ksh10 million to produce 250,000 Ruiru 11 and Batian seedlings for distribution to the small scale farmers in the coming short rains season and a further Sh4.3 million to finance soil sampling and testing in other counties, that were not covered. “The results from the soil testing will ensure appropriate soil fertility interventions are undertaken including fertilizer application,” Kieyah continued
The seedlings have been bred from the CRI nurseries located at koru substation in Kericho county (30,000 seedlings), Namwela substation in Bungoma (30,000), Kitale substation in Transnzoia (45,000) and 35,000 in Marienne substation in Meru County.
The CRI director Elijah Gichuru explained that the country has an annual demand of between six and 10 million seedlings against a production capacity of about one million.
“With assistance of various local and international organizations we have been supplying planting materials to farmers in the country though we are still not able to meet the demand,” said Dr. Gichuru.
For example, in 2013 the European Union (EU) extended a Sh277 million grant to Kenya under Coffee Productivity Project (CPP) to finance decentralization of coffee research activities to maximize production of planting materials and enhance access to the farmers.
More than 60,000 small producers have benefited from the programme. Seedlings of new coffee varieties -Batian and Ruiru 11- resistant to the coffee berry and leaf rust diseases suitable for the region’s ecological zone has contributed to increased uptake of coffee by over 3,500 acres.
Under the project, CRI contracted 28 coffee societies in 14 coffee growing counties to produce seedlings and sell to farmers at subsidized prices. “We estimate that in the next five years, coffee production will increase substantially and thus boost farmers’ income,” he added.