KENYA – The Kenyan coffee, one of the most sought-after coffees in the world due to its intense flavor, full body and a pleasant aroma, risks losing its global appeal following its rejection in Japan and South Korea on allegations of high levels of chemical contamination.

According to reports by Nation Kenya, the chemical levels of Ochratoxin, a naturally occurring foodborne mycotoxin occurring in a wide variety of agricultural commodities, was found to have exceeded the allowable minimum.

Due to this, the two countries have banned the commodity for three years with local stakeholders now raising concerns that if this is not reversed, then the produce could face total ban and could have a negative effect on other importing countries as well.

In 2017/2018 show South Korea accounted for 12% of Kenya’s coffee exports, fourth after Germany, United States and Belgium.

“The flagging of Kenyan coffee by the key markets due to high levels of contamination does not augur well for the sector. The government has to move fast in addressing this challenge,” said Peter Gikonyo, Kenya Coffee Producers Association’s Chairperson.

According to Mr Gikonyo, the ban is as a result of gaps in certification procedures for coffee agrochemicals, inadequate capacity by farmers in post-harvest handling of the crop and gaps in coffee export regulations and enforcement.

Statistics for 2017/2018 show that South Korea accounted for 12% of Kenya’s coffee exports, fourth after Germany, United States and Belgium.

However, Kenyan coffee production has been declining from a high of 130,000 tonnes realised in the late 80s to the current 40,000 tonnes.

Majority of the smallholder coffee farmers are currently producing less than two kilogrammes (kg) per tree per year against an annual potential of 35kg per tree.

The fall in production is blamed on poor management of farmer cooperatives and infiltration of the sector by cartels that has seen growers’ earnings fall every other year.

To revive the sector, the government announced that coffee trading will be regulated by the Capital Markets Authority in a move aimed at taming cartels blamed for diminishing earnings by farmers.

The Kenyan government also approved the Kshs. 3 Billion (US$29.5m) Cherry Advance Revolving Fund regulations to boost coffee farming in the country in the begging of the year.

Coffee earnings decline in eight months to August

In the eight months to August, Kenyan’s coffee earnings dropped by Sh2.4 billion (US$22.1m) compared with the similar period last year.

Market report from the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE) indicates that the crop had earned Kenya Sh9 billion (US$82.9m) by the end of last month, down from Sh11.4 billion (US$105m) in corresponding period last year.

According to NCE, the low earnings resulted from lower quality coffee as the supply of farming inputs was disrupted following restrictions imposed in the country to curb coronavirus spread.

The average price went up to Sh20,088 (US$185) during the period from Sh16,740 (US$154) for a 50-kilo bag in the corresponding eight months of the previous year, with the rally attributed to shortage of coffee that resulted in higher prices in the world market.

The number of bags traded in the review period was 367,175, down from 556,608 in 2019’s first eight months, representing a 34.03 percent drop.

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