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Kenyan coffee gets branded

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 22- The profile of Kenyan coffee in the international market is set to rise following the launch of an identity that will distinguish it from coffees grown in other countries.

The Coffee Board of Kenya on Friday unveiled a logo dubbed the ‘Kenya coffee brand’ which is part of the value-addition initiative which is also expected to spur demand for Kenyan coffee and in turn help to further develop the sub-sector.

“The industry took cognisance of the need to brand Kenyan coffee, a move that is expected to increase competitiveness for Kenyan coffee internationally and consequently enhance the performance of the industry,” said the Board’s Chairman Kagema Mwangi.

The national logo will be applied to coffees which meet the minimum quality as set out by the Kenya Bureau of Standards and is one way of revolutionising coffee marketing.

Mr Mwangi added that they expect the branding exercise to increase the commodity’s visibility and consequently stimulate production and consumption of the beverage.

Currently, about 98 percent of locally produced coffee is exported in raw form for processing where it is blended with coffee from other destinations. This is however not always acknowledged when such brands are marketed which means that Kenya loses out.

Although its widely believed that Kenya produces premium coffee the world over, local farmers have little to show for it as the high prices of coffee in the international market rarely trickles down to them.

The new initiative is however expected to motivate them to produce more so that their returns can be enhanced. Coffee production earns the country Sh10 billion or 3.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. It is however a far cry from the 40 to 50 percent contribution that the sub-sector used to make towards the economy in the 1970s and 1980s.

This is because it has been grappling with a myriad of challenges including poor agronomic practices, indebtedness and coffee diseases which have all contributed to a reduction of coffee production from the highs of 130,000 Metric Tons (MT) recorded in the late1980s to the current 60,000MT.

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Compounded by legislation issues, these problems have also been manifested in coffee consumption where it is estimated that only about three percent of the Kenyan population drink coffee annually.

The Coffee Board has in the meantime called for increased budgetary allocation to enable it carry out aggressive campaigns to market coffee as a beverage of choice and enable it carry out sensitisation campaigns on land use.

Present at the function was Agriculture Permanent Secretary Dr Romano Kiome who expressed fears that real estate development which has seen many acres of coffee uprooted has heightened competition for land.

He warned that if this trend continued, it could lead to a 10 to 20 percent reduction in production in the next five years. Currently, there are approximately 4,000 coffee estates in the country.

However, measures such as educating people on the dangers of converting good agricultural land to commercial use were being put in place to address this problem. The other alternative that they were mulling over was to put in place legislation to prohibit people from doing so, Dr Kiome said.

To help return the sector to its former glory however, the PS challenged farmers, coffee marketers and other stakeholders to take advantage of the many reforms that had been instituted to revive the industry. One such measure was the introduction of a second window that allows any farmer to sell coffee directly to the consumer.

“I’m not aware of any other sector where we have introduced some of the most far reaching reforms but unfortunately our stakeholders have not taken advantage of them,” he regretted.

The use of new varieties of coffee and technologies were other measures that would also go a long way in developing the coffee industry and should be embraced, Dr Kiome suggested.

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