Following a continued series of theft cases, Kenyan farmers have started to wonder if they should continue with what used to be their “life-line”: growing coffee, as reported by theguardian.
News sources have traced theft cases back to 2010, and they have continued over the following six years to present day. (businessdailyafrica).
It’s not just a matter of the coffee, even human lives are in jeopardy as the robbers can be ruthless and brutal; as witnessed in one case where a watchman was killed (bussinessdailyafrica).
According to approximate calculations 1,216 bags of coffee beans were stolen between the months of July and December of 2010. About 10,000 metric tons of coffee were unaccountable for in the same year (businessdailyafrica).
Various farms, stores, drying tables, and transits had their coffee stolen from them nationwide and illegal channels supporting such activities are now suspected to be backed by cartels. In a report published by another source nation.co.ke, in 2015, coffee theft cases could be seen continuously occurring with the source reporting more than 200 theft and loot incidents occurring alone in the last quarter of 2015. Not even just the small farmers or mills have been hit, even the largest private mill of Kenya, Central Kenya Coffee Mill was no exception when 83 bags of coffee were stolen from the mill in early December 2015.
The police believe many theft cases were simply “inside jobs”, but farmers blame factory management committees, millers, and marketers whom they believe are all involved in cartel chains. Even the involvement of police management cannot be ruled out as the thieves transport their loot across the same roads that station police at several points (standardmedia).
Despite the hard work coffee farmers put into growing coffee, they have little to no control over selling their own beans. This adds to the ease with which the stolen beans can be added to the shipments. 60-year-old Dominike Liengo puts it this way “What is the point of working hard if there are 20 thieves between you and the market?” Any farmer looking forward to sell his or her own coffee must come up with a minimum bank guarantee of £0.8m or else it is the millers and marketers who pocket the money as the middlemen in coffee trading (theguardian).
Tough measures are required to cut back the corruption, like tight audits of coffee stock from the farms to the mills to the stores. Co-operatives also need to take careful measures while electing people for factory chairmanship and other important posts during factory management elections to do the best possible in minimizing coffee theft cases and corruption (standardmedia).
Writer and content contributor for international magazines and websites.
Nida has been writing professionally for CoffeeBI since March 2016.