Coffee farmers in Kericho County and the South Rift have a reason to smile after the Kipkelion Union Coffee Mill began packaging coffee products for the market following support from the County Government of Kericho.
This marks the first time in history that coffee grown, milled, roasted and packaged in Kericho County would be sold directly to the market, thereby assisting farmers bypass unscrupulous middlemen who have been accused of robbing farmers of their rightful income.
The products – Zawadi Coffee and Kipkelion Union Coffee – were launched at a colourful ceremony held at the coffee mill on February 1 attended by thousands of excited coffee growers from Kericho and neighbouring coffee growing counties. Finance County Executive Committee Member Patrick Mutai and his Public Works, Roads and Transport counterpart Charles Birech represented Governor Paul Chepkwony at the event.
Nandi County Deputy Governor Yulita Mitei and former Kipkelion MP Magerer Langat were also in attendance at the meeting which was sponsored by Fairtrade International. Governor Chepkwony lauded the development as the realization of his dream to help coffee farmers escape the firm grip of middlemen who were out to exploit them by buying coffee at a low price and reselling it for a fortune.
“This is a big step for the coffee farmers of Kericho who will now be able to earn better from their toils in the farm. I am proud of this achievement and will continue supporting the coffee mill to expand,” he said.
Prof Chepkwony noted that the County Government of Kericho had made the coffee mills achieve the milestone by helping procuring the coffee roaster machine and packaging equipment among other equipment.
The county also invested heavily in farmer outreach programs which resulted in higher production levels in coffee growing areas. The new direct market foray for Kericho coffee is expected to inspire higher production.
“We are now moving to the next stage, which is finding new markets for our coffee locally, regionally and internationally. This will create a bigger market for and translate into higher incomes for farmers,” added Prof Chepkwony.
The county government intends to also reach out to supermarket outlets within the county and major retailers of coffee products locally and abroad to ensure that the products can then be accessed more easily both locally and abroad.
Kipkelion Union Coffee Mill Chief Executive Officer Sammy Too said the coffee products produced by the mill were currently in packages of only 250 grams but were doing well in the market. He added that plans were underway for the mill to introduce smaller packages of 100 grams and 50 grams to the market to make the coffee more affordable and reach out to a wider market.
The mill supports 35 coffee cooperative societies in the larger South Rift region which are affiliated to the Kipkelion District Coffee Union (KDCU).