The coffee industry has been one of the key pillars of Kenya’s economy since independence. It is one of the major cash crops in Kenya, coming third after tea and horticultural produce. The sector has been a significant earner of foreign exchange for the economy and provider of jobs. However, the exposure of the industry to the world economy and other emerging challenges at home provide policy makers with a huge task to ensure this sector retains its relevance and importance to Kenya’s economy.
Reports from the Ministry of Agriculture have indicated that there is a possibility of the crop declining in the course of this year due to the delayed onset of the second rainy season. Rainfall between the month of November and January has been poor for the crop. If the dry season continues, the country might miss out on the set target of raising tea output by 25 percent to 500 kilograms.
Climatic changes have contributed to the decline of coffee production in Kenya over the past years. This is because the rainfall patterns together with excessive droughts make crop management and disease control a nightmare. With regular droughts and less rainfall in marginal areas continuing to be seen, production of coffee has plummeted in many areas.
Kenyan coffee is the most preferred across the globe. Kenyan coffee, known for its strong aroma and unique taste, is a much sought after brand globally as it is used to blend other brands from other countries like Ethiopia and Uganda. Its revered quality has earned it a fervent following across the world with coffee roasters placing orders for specific brands pushing the price up to between Sh2,000 and Sh90,000 for a quarter kilo.
Coffee exports increased by 15 percent in the crop season through September 2016 to 44,000 tonnes. Kenya’s mainly rain-fed agriculture makes up about a quarter of the 7 trillion-shilling economy. The sector contributed 3.9 percent growth to gross domestic product in the third quarter of 2016 after tea and coffee output fell, compared with 5.5 per cent a year earlier, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
It is estimated that over 700,000 small-scale and large-scale farmers are involved in coffee farming. In addition, the coffee industry, due to its forward and backward linkages, directly and indirectly benefits about 5 million people in the country.