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Kenyan coffee farmers strategise to improve earnings

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Kenya is looking to increase the value of its coffee by roasting more beans for export instead of exporting just the raw beans.

Farmers are also been encouraged to link up with foreign partners who can help build markets abroad, as well as add value to the raw beans, a major source of foreign exchange.

Kenya produced 45,000 tonnes of coffee beans in the 2015/16 season. 50,000 tonnes of coffee beans are expected to be produced in the 2016/17 season.

The agriculture ministry says the amount of coffee roasted locally is expected to go up by 5 percent to 10 percent annually over the next five years.

In the coffee growing region of the central highlands, the Othaya Farmers Co-operative is installing a roasting machine and a grinder at a cost of about $500,000 to produce packed coffee for local retail and future export.

The aim is to boost earnings for the co-operative’s 15,000 farmers.

“If we take our coffee through the value addition process and we are able — we get market, the issue here is the market. If we get the market that is domestic market coffee, the payment will be higher,“James Gathua, chairman of Othaya Coffee Co-operative said.

Among the new roasting entrants is Denmark’s African Coffee Roasters which set up a roasting facility this year.

For now, local roasting is dominated by C. Dorman Ltd, which operates a chain of coffee shops in Kenya and also exports to foreign markets, as well as Java House, which has a fast growing chain of coffee shops and restaurants outside Kenya.

The Kenyan government is still looking for innovative ways of revamping the coffee sector whose output has dropped by half compared to the 1980’s.

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