Farmers raise red flag over coffee theft

Monday
August 22,  2011

According to Kenya Coffee Producers and Traders Association which runs the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, coffee beans last week averaged $480 for 50 kilo bag of grade AA, and $310 for other grades. 

High international coffee prices against declining production of the crop has set-off a series of theft incidents in coffee growing areas.
The most affected areas are Central Kenya and parts of Kisii where a watchman was killed at Nyabonge factory over the weekend and 50 bags of coffee stolen.

In Kiambu, Gathage, Nembu, Thiririka and Muhara coffee factories have lost a combined amount of 80 bags in recent weeks.

The regulator, Coffee Board of Kenya said they had sent an alert, reminding farmers of measures that they need to take to curb thefts.
“There is a concern even by the insurance companies about the increasing level of losses,” said the CBK managing director, Ms Loise Njeru.

She said the regulator had prepared a ministerial statement over the matter, with the intention of enlisting support from various government administration officers.

The MD said coffee thefts had increased because the second crop, normally characterised by low production was at its peak.

According to Kenya Coffee Producers and Traders Association which runs the Nairobi Coffee Exchange, coffee beans last week averaged $480 for 50 kilo bag of grade AA, and $310 for other grades.

The amount available for trading today is between 18,000 bags and 19,000 bags, and this is expected to decline to between 10,000 bags and 13,000 bags in the following week.

“The problem of coffee theft has worsened over the last few weeks and farmers are not sure that they will have any income from their sweat,’ said Francis Mara, the chairman of Gitwe coffee society in Kiambu.

Since the prices of coffee started improving, many factories in have been forced to increase security to prevent theft of their coffee beans that are in stores or are spread out to dry.

In March, Kenya Coffee Producers Association noted that the justice system and enforcement agencies seemed unable to deal with the cartel suspected to be behind the coffee theft.

It is estimated that coffee worth Sh40 million from various factories across the country was stolen from farms, stores, drying tables and in transit in 2010.

According to Coffee Board of Kenya, 1,216 bags of the beans were stolen between July and December 2010.

About 10,000 metric tonnes of coffee could not be accounted for last year and was suspected to have found its way out of the country through illegal channels.

Availability of excess milling capacity has brought with it competition among commercial millers, leading to some engaging in illegal activities to recoup investments and meet other financial obligations.

Some are reported to be buying coffee and marketing it as their produce.

“Millers, warehousemen and dealers must, at all times, insist on valid movement permits for all coffee received at their premises as a sign of authenticity, transparency and traceability,” the board said last year.

The woes facing Kenya Planters Co-operative Union, according to players, have left farmers in Western Kenya exposed to theft as they first have to accumulate large volumes of beans before transporting to millers as far as Central Kenya.

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