NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 26 – A tissue culture laboratory which is expected to spearhead the release of new and better coffee varieties will be launched soon, Agriculture Minister William Ruto has said.
He said on Monday that the lab would go a long way in up scaling the promotion of the coffee sub sector which has been dogged by many challenges that have contributed to the decline in production by 62 percent to 50,000 tonnes annually.
“Unlike in the past when we had to use the convectional method of raising seeds, we can now raise adequate seeds for all farmers. The inauguration of the tissue culture lab means that the Board (Coffee Board of Kenya) will be able to supply seeds much more efficiently and effectively,” he said.
Many farmers including those in non- traditional areas of coffee growing who are interested in growing the crop will also benefit from this move which is expected to turn around the sub-sector which currently earns the country Sh10 billion annually.
With only about 170,000 hectares under coffee, the crop is the fourth largest foreign exchange earner after tea, tourism and horticulture. This however is a decline since the 1987/1988 when it was the leading earner.
The Minister said the promotion of the crop would also be backed up by reforms in the sub sector expected to be driven by the enactment of the Coffee Bill of 2008.
He said the Bill was with the Attorney General and would be forwarded to Parliament for debate when it reopens.
Its enactment would help put in place the necessary legal provisions that can address the emerging issues such as those of funding and governance in the liberalised industry.
With all these measures in place, the Minister forecasted that the industry could be revived in the next two to three years.
Mr Ruto said the government also intends to intensify the branding of Kenyan coffee in the international market.
“I’m aware that a lot of work has gone into that exercise and I’m looking forward to its conclusion so that we can begin the process of marketing our coffee in a different manner,” he said adding that the government was encouraging more players to come on board and market coffee as a way of ensuring better returns for the farmers.
He also disclosed that the troubled Kenya Planters Co-operative Union which has been placed under receivership due to a Sh700 million had asked to meet him in a bid to resolve its problems.
During the meeting to inaugurate the Coffee Board of Kenya, the Coffee Development Fund and the Coffee Research Foundation, the organisations outlined their plans to help steer the sub sector back to profitability.
Coffee Development Fund Chairman Prof Zablon Nthamburi said they had developed a five years strategy aimed at raising the fund’s portfolio to Sh5 billion by 2012.
“Key among this is to request the government to increase the Fund’s annual budgetary request by Sh1.5 billion and its support in the enactment of the Coffee Amendment Bill,” the Chairman said while assuring the members’ commitment in realising the Board’s objectives.