The National Coffee Federation of Kenya Chairman Francis Ngone is enraged after he and other Kenyan farmers were locked out of a consultative meeting chaired by CS Agriculture Peter Munya on Tuesday morning.
The representatives of over 700,000 farmers drawn from all parts of the country turned up at the Tea House where they were denied access by organizers of the event on grounds that they were not in on the list of invited guests despite it being a public participation stakeholders meeting.
The CS was meeting with stakeholders to deliberate on the proposed Crops General Amendments Regulations of 2022 sponsored by the Agriculture and Food Authority in relation to coffee regulations and the Capital Markets Coffee exchange regulations of 2020.
Ngone said the farmers who had travelled as far as Kipkelion and Muranga told reporters that they were barred from accessing the meeting under direct instructions from Munya whom they accuse of sidelining them after being reportedly compromised by a section of coffee industry cartels that want to retain their dominance of the business.
With help from the key Raila Odinga man in Meru, the cabal made up of established coffee trade multinationals like Starbucks, Nestle, Kraft Foods and many other coffee roasters has been accused of seeking to maintain its market presence through unorthodox and corrupt means.
“We travelled very early from the different parts of the country.
However, when we got here they told us they already had a list.
The people inside there who are purporting to be farmers are not stakeholders.
There is no public participation.
We have been locked yet we are the coffee far farmers”, he lamented.
He said Munya’s bill was rejected by Parliament and that he was trying to push it down their throats despite open resistance.
“Munya wants to push the bill that was rejected by parliament, we went to parliament and stopped it by just giving our views.
He followed us in our unions we told him we are ready to discuss and asked them to leave us with the documents instead they issued a gazette notice calling for this meeting,” he added.
He says that the bill was not subjected to public participation and was not approved by the National Assembly and Senate either.
According to Ngone, the Proposed amendments made to Coffee Act by Munya are unprocedural and should not be continued unless there is a consensus.
“We hereby term these amendments unprocedural and that they have no support from Coffee Farmers, County Government or coffee sector players and thus should not be allowed until a consensus is reached,” declared.
He added that there was no policy framework for the proposed amendments and asked president Uhuru to intervene.
“Shockingly, there is no policy framework that informs the rationale for the proposed amendments to the regulations and needless to say, these amendments are a complete about-turn to the recommendations of The National Task Force on Coffee Sub Sector Reforms which was appointed by His Excellency.
We want to know if the president has changed his mind about wanting to offer coffee farmers a long-lasting solution by backtracking on the progressive reforms delivered by His Task Force,” he said.
There has been a push and pull between Munya, coffee farmers and the Senate Committee.
The Senate Committee of Agriculture had last year accused Munya of playing politics in the coffee industry thus frustrating reforms.
Senate Committee on Agriculture Chairman Senator Njeru Ndwiga said the minister should follow the law so that the country can have coffee reforms as envisaged in Vision 2030.
There may be no end in sight to the misery that small-holder coffee farmers in Kenya have continued to suffer for decades now, despite the flicker of hope that was appearing on the horizon following the coffee sector reforms that the President was pushing when he formed a coffee taskforce in 2016.
The entrenched coffee sector cartels who have for generations defied any attempts to make the coffee business sustainable have once more crafted a typical Kenyan plan to scuttle the new coffee laws that were put in place to give coffee co-operative societies greater say in the may their produce is marketed.
These are established coffee trade multinationals that are all foreign-owned, and that for generations have thrived on the racial prejudice that being white-owned companies means they operate above board.
Nothing can be further from the truth.
These white-owned coffee companies are the most ruthlessly corrupt operators who retain their dominance of the coffee business through institutionalized patronage networks that defy changes in political regimes.
In case you missed it, we wrote more about them here: Coffee Cartels Raise Ksh15 Million Bribery Kitty To Fight Coffee Reforms
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