Coffee
cash crops in Kenya.

When Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua spoke at his Mount Kenya backyard at a public event in late December, he showcased fervent eagerness to kick out profit-sapping cartels while streamlining the agricultural sub-sectors of coffee, tea, and dairy farming.

One does not need to look far at the numbers in the three sub-sectors in agriculture to realize that the businesses provide a critical lifeline to millions of people across Kenya.

It is estimated that over 700,000 small-scale and large-scale farmers are involved in farming coffee, one of the major cash crops in Kenya. The business impacts a further five million people indirectly in the value chain.

According to the Tea Directorate, Kenya produces over 450 million Kgs of tea, earning the country over Kes120 billion in foreign exchange annually. Just like coffee, the tea industry supports about five million people directly and indirectly while an estimated 650,000 growers depend on tea, making the sector one of the leading sources of livelihood in the country.

Kenya Dairy Board projects that Kenya has the capacity to produce over 100 million litres of milk per year from the current production of 45 million litres.

In his address, Mr Gachagua fingered self-serving operatives of the previous regime for stymieing reforms in the said sectors at the expense of farmers, cracking up his partnership with President William Ruto as the effective antidote to the woes besetting coffee, milk and tea.

“Why we will succeed in [coffee, tea and milk reforms] for the benefit of the farmer is the simple reason that Rigathi Gachagua and William Ruto are not conflicted,” he said in December.

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It is perhaps out of this wish and commitment that President William Ruto has picked his deputy to set matters coffee right.

Under Executive Order 1 of 2023, Dr Ruto has tasked Mr Gachagua with steering the Coffee Sub Sector Reform Implementation Standing Committee.

Mr Gachagua’s endeavor to weed out brokers and other vested interests from the coffee trade is reminiscent of similar undertakings by his brother and former Nyeri County Governor, Nderitu Gachagua, who attempted to pool the county’s produce and sell it directly to buyers in the global markets.

However, Governor Nderitu’s plan was scuttled by adversaries and never came to fruition.

Mr Gachagua will hopefully pull it off this time round, considering he occupies a higher political office than his late brother, coupled with goodwill from the head of state. 

In the run up to the General Election last year, the president promised farmers guaranteed returns from their produce as part of the plans to cushion farmers from losses.

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