By Eastern Newspaper Correspondent
The unending long-drawn coffee wars in Meru County are on, as expected.
On the red corner is the giant Meru County Coffee Union (Maccu), and on the blue corner is the New KPCU.
The New KPCU took over the Meru mill from the Maccu in May 2020, in acrimonious circumstances.
The Maccu which boasts of a big number of farmers in the region were evicted from the premises without notice, according to County Trade, Cooperative, and Tourism Executive Maingi Mugambi.
The New KPCU which is now under Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture and Cooperatives Peter Munya, took over the mill, even as a big number of farmers opposed the move.
The Maccu has started their mill, while KPCU’s officers have been busy convincing farmers they are the best people to deliver their cherry to.
It is a vicious battle for coffee farmers in Meru and Tharaka Nithi as the two giants flex their muscles in the agricultural arena.
Julius Kimathi, Munya’s senior technical advisor on agriculture, has been appealing for farmers affiliated to Maccu to jump ship because the national government is the best bet for farmers.
“The societies have committed to bringing their coffee, and even members of the Meru County Coffee Union are welcome to bring their produce for milling,” Kimathi said
Kimathi pleaded with farmers to have confidence in the CS as he bids to revitalize coffee farming in the county-and across Kenya.
But that likelihood looks bleak as the Maccu has established their mill, as farmers affiliated to it stick to their guns.
Heavy punches have been thrown as Maccu and New KPCU flex their muscles on who has the biggest pull in the region.
While Governor Kiraitu Murungi’s government is leaning towards Maccu, the national government has deployed its administrators, including deputy county commissioners, to support the New KPCU.
The administrators have been accompanying New KPCU senior officials in meetings with farmers, even as they said politics should not be allowed to creep into the sub-sector.
New KPCU has managed to pull under its wing a big number of farmers, and some of the biggest estate farmers in both Meru and Tharaka Nithi.
Leaders of the societies expressed their commitment to having their members deliver the coffee to New KPCU, and said they were ready to embrace the new structures being raid.
“Our prayer is for Munya to work with farmers in the grassroots because what we want is money for our produce. Munya does not have to go through anyone to reach farmers,” said Mark Mutuma, of Kathangene Society.
Isaiah Kalunyu from the Igembe Society expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that area leaders were not working in unity to find solutions for farmers.
“It is a pity that politics are creeping into agricultural issues. When minister convenes a meeting of farmers or leaders to discuss issues affecting them, politics should not be let to sabotage them,” Kalunyu said.
New KPCU Chairman Henry Kinyua, Acting CEO Angela Ndambuki, and Ministry of Agriculture Senior Technical Advisor Julius Kimathi said it was now all systems go after farmers delivered a ‘large amount’ of coffee to kick-start the milling.
Mr. Kinyua said the farmers would be assisted to boost productivity, and they qualified to receive up to 40 percent of the value of the delivered coffee, depending on its quality.
“The Sh3 billion cherry advance (kitty) is now available and farmers are free to apply,” he said.
Silas Mwilaria from the Mutethia Coffee Society in Tigania said they faced difficulties when looking for accessible and affordable seedlings.
Kinyua assured the farmers that the agency was in talks with the Coffee Research Institute, to provide coffee nurseries.
Kinyua who toured the facility as it readied to re-start the milling, said a laboratory had been installed at the facility.
He said the mill’s charges were friendly, as it will cost farmers only Sh4 to mill a kilogram.
Ndambuki said the mill will be run transparently, with farmers getting access to all offices whenever they seek services.