There may be no end in sight to the misery that small-holder coffee farmers inh Kenya have continued to suffer for decades now, despite the flicker of hope that was appearing in the horizon following the coffee sector reforms that the President was pushing when he formed a coffee taskforce in 2016.
Information reaching Cnyakundi.com indicate that 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.
Bribery moves mountains in Kenya, and the coffee cartels know this first hand, having used it to maintain their vice-like grip on small-scale coffee farmers for eons.
Correspondence in our possession is as clear a smoking gun as it gets — the coffee marketers have put together a kitty of Kshs 15 million intended to bribe judges currently handling a case where a coffee society, a known proxy of the coffee cartels, has filed a case to challenge the new coffee licensing laws under the pretext that they were enacted ‘without public participation’.
It is amazing the kind of power and arrogance the coffee cartels enjoy, that they even have the audacity to sabotage coffee reforms initiated by the President with the support of smallholder coffee societies and the Council of Governors. It is telling that that the flurry of court cases that have been filed by “coffee societies” to challenge the new laws are handled by top-notch lawyers (Manyonge Wanyama & Associates LLP) who the farmers can ill-afford, which tells us the whole exercise is sponsored by the coffee cartels.
It’s also amazing that the same advocate representing the Council of Governors that supports the new coffee reforms is the same crooked lawyer who’s doing the bidding of the cartels as the go-between to channel bribes to judges.
And who are these coffee cartels?
These are established coffee trade multinationals that are all foreign-owned, and who 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 defies changes in political regimes.
They conveniently hide their identity by hiring poorly-paid black managers to be the public face of the business.
Perhaps it’s time Kenyans also asked the question why the global buyers of Kenyan coffee never appear bothered by the extreme misery of the small scale coffee farmers despite Kenyan arabicas being rated some of the best in the world.
For how long can Starbucks, Nestle, Kraft Foods and many other coffee roasters continue pretending that they are unaware that their coffee brokers in Kenya are part of an entrenched cartel that maintains its market presence through corruption?
If they thought these claims are the usual coffee politics, they have no excuse any longer, we have documentary evidence in the email attached here where coffee brokers are fundraising for their corruption slush fund.
Smallscale coffee farmers and Kenyans in general have to wake up now and hold to account not just these faceless Kenyan coffee cartels, but also their overseas coffee buyers who continue to pretend they are not aware that what is happening to coffee farmers is modern-day slavery.
It is likely that coffee baristas at Starbucks who know Kenyan Arabica as a top brew would be shocked beyond imagination to know the farmers who grow that coffee live miserable lives where they struggle to feed their families and can only educate their children if they manage to get education bursaries.
It is also most offensive that these white-owned coffee traders in Kenya continue to perpetuate the racist ideology that its only them who are qualified to market Kenyan coffee to overseas markets because “the buyers are also white”. Black Lives Matter; Kenyan coffee farmers matter!