Direct Coffee Export: A win for smallholder coffee farmers

Ann Tuei, coffee farmer from Kipkelliom, Kenya. Photo Catherine Waking'a
Ann Tuei, coffee farmer from Kipkelliom, Kenya. Photo Catherine Waking'a

Kipkellion District Cooperative Union (KDCU), one of We Effect’s partners under the Sustainable Rural Development (SRD) Programme, recently finalised a direct sale of 134.4 metric tons (MT) of coffee to South Korea valued at USD 908,160.

Top on the cherry for the farmers is an additional request for two more containers of 40 MT of coffee from the same buyer totaling to nine containers of 174.4 MT. The sale proceeds will pay 9,582 small-scale farmers spread across Kericho, Nandi, and Bomet counties at an estimated rate of Ksh 100 ( SEK 100) per kg of cherry.

The sale came about when the Ministry of Trade together with the Coffee Subsector Reforms Implementation Standing Committee (CSRISC) coordinated a very successful Seoul Coffee Expo on 14th – 17th July 2021 in South Korea.

All seven (7) coffee unions in Meru, Machakos, Gusii, Mt. Elgon, and Kipkellion supported by We Effect under National Coffee Co-operative Union (NACCU), participated virtually due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Fortunately, the interests of farmers were well represented by government delegations that participated.

The participation of the Kipkellion District Cooperative Union (KDCU) got the attention of the Chief Executive Officer of Good Beans, with whom the direct preliminary deliberations culminated in the finalization of direct sale, which is a significant milestone of the coffee reforms agenda.

Kericho Governor Prof. Paul Kiprono Chepkwony accompanied by Kipkellion District Cooperative Union (KDCU) members and staff flagging off seven containers of coffee to Korea at Bollore warehouse and Logistics Nairobi, Kenya. Photo Festus Bett.

It is a historic achievement for small-scale coffee farmers across the country and a clear demonstration that given an opportunity and with support, farmers have the potential to produce, mill, meet export requirements, negotiate and export our coffee across the entire globe.

During the flagging off ceremony of seven (7) coffee containers to South Korea at Bollore Warehouse and Logistic in Nairobi, Kenya, Kericho Governor Prof. Paul Kiprono Chepkwony termed the move ‘a defining moment for smallholder coffee farmers.

Despite the good coffee prices in the global market, farmers have never had an opportunity to interact and bargain with the buyers directly.

Kenyan coffee is sold through the auction at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, where marketing agents auction on behalf of farmers thus getting any offers against their wish. Most marketers get direct sale offers without the consent of smallholder farmers. On the other hand, buyers too get coffee they order at the mercies of the marketers.

We Effect advocacy initiatives have been pushing for the licensing of coffee cooperatives as marketing agents. It will enable market diversification by opening doors for them in the coffee markets such as the emerging and fastest growing Asian coffee-consuming countries.

The Coffee Subsector Reforms Implementation Standing Committee (CSRISC) in the President’s Executive Office supports Cooperative unions vertically; integrated to enable market diversification. One of the recommendations by the National Task Force on Coffee Subsector Reforms in 2016 was the marketing of Kenyan coffee. Especially in the emerging and fastest growing Asian coffee consuming countries like South Korea, Dubai, and China, where coffee trade fares and exhibitions.