If Ethiopia is the Queen of Coffee, then Kenya is the King. What a couple! While she is slender and graceful, with floral elegance and contoured acidity, he is more heavy bodied yet dandy: intensely aromatic, with rich attributes, colorful juiciness and flair. Both have standout personalities that make them unique and irreplaceable in the Word of Coffee.
Coffee is an important product in many producing countries’ economy. It represents a source for revenue in foreign currencies and local taxes, thus its production is often heavily regulated and so is the trade of it. Ultimately, it employs many people: farmers and workers, all potential voters. Coffee is Political!
The newly elected Government of Nyeri made a claim that farmers were not being paid well enough for their product compared to what exporters are making from selling it. Thus new and radical policies seeking to mend that situation were put in place; the local government in the county of Nyeri took full control of the milling and trade of all cooperative coffees in Nyeri as of last harvest season.
In practical terms it meant that the farmers’ cooperative, who owns the washing station, were obliged to dry mill, screen and pack their coffee at the state run Sagana KPCU (state run) Mill. Ultimately the Nyeri coffee were marketed and sold through the same Sagana company. It was said to be done in the name of what is best for the farmers. Well. From history, from experience, from gut-feel; there was little or no reason to believe that the money would pile up at the farmer’s doorstep after that move.
Since then the ‘situation’ has taken its turns, quite interestingly, but it hasn’t been pretty. After several weeks and months of not selling or not being able to sell the Nyeri coffees, the marketing body finally released the coffee from the warehouses in April-May and offered them for sale at the coffee auction in Nairobi. But at that time the buying season was coming to an end, thus they didn’t fetch the high prices that they overwise would have received earlier in the season. For the farmers it was yet to get even worse. Whoever sold the coffee on their behalf held onto the money for another few months. All in all a rather grim end to a saga that we had a quite bad feeling about at the beginning of the season. For more information on this matter, check these articles about how the the situation evolved from January, oops and then July, August. Sad stuff.
At LCDC the Kenyan situation will be covered through lectures, cupping and discussions. In the original programming the invitation went out to the Governor go Nyeri to come to Paris and present their case themselves. His office declined.
Oliver Strand will cover the situation from the perspective of writing about it for his new book, thus he will naturally lead a discussion about the situation after the cupping go the best of the best from the 2013/2014 Harvest in Nyeri and Kirinyaga regions.