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Sh100m Baringo coffee factory remains idle over lack of berries

RIFT VALLEY
By Julius Chepkwony | September 7th 2021
Baringo Coffee mill commissioned three months ago. The plant is yet to be utilised as county cannot produce enough berries to sustain it. [Julius Chepkwony, Standard Group]

A Sh100 million coffee factory in Baringo County remains idle three months after it was commissioned due to lack of berries.

Baringo Cha Cofee Mill, at Katimok in Baringo North, was established by the county government with help from Korean investors.

Agriculture executive Joel Koima said while the mill has the capacity to process 1.2 tonnes of berries per hour, local farmers are yet to start producing enough berries to sustain it.

The annual production of berries in the region currently stands at 100 tonnes, which Koima said is not sufficient to sustain the factory.

Koima spoke as the administration of governor Stanley Kiptis, in collaboration with its Korean partners, conducted interviews for positions of manager and accountant at the factory.

"We are looking forward to seeing the factory up and running. That is why, today, we are linking up with our Korean friends, via zoom, to conduct interviews as we seek to employ a manager and two other officials,” the county minister said, noting they are also aware of the many challenges local coffee farmers are facing.

Even then, the mill is expected to start collecting berries from farmers in November and December.

“Nobody has harvested coffee in our region yet. Collection of berries will begin in November,” Koima said.

Baringo Coffee mill commissioned three months ago. [Julius Chepkwony, Standard]

 

In August this year, the county government distributed 100,000 coffee seedlings to farmers in Baringo South, Eldama Ravine, Mogotio and Baringo Central in its bid to boost production. The newly-planted seedlings will take approximately two years to mature and bear fruits.

Farmers were also supported through the provision of fertilizer and pulping machines.

This came as Mr Kiptis announced they will continue allocating more funds and provide expertise to boost coffee production in the region.

He said they distributed seedlings to farmers to enhance the sustainability of the mill.

"Through the distribution of seedlings, we hope to increase the area under coffee from 2,500 hectares to 3,000 in 2023," Koima said.

Baringo County Cooperative Union Secretary Stephen Chemjor said they are in talks with farmers from several counties; Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Uasin Gishu and Laikipia, to bring their berries to the mill so it does not lie idle as they work to increase local production.

"As we wait to produce enough coffee berries locally, the county government and management of the factory should work with stakeholders to find a way of sustaining it," said Chemjor.

Chemjor revealed at least 20,000 farmers from the region have ventured into coffee farming.

Chemjor, who has been farming coffee since 2004, has more than 1,000 trees. He said many people were not growing due to lack sensitization while others kept off due to frustrations caused by poor prices and high cost of farm inputs, among other challenges.

Willy Cherogony, a county government coffee extension officer, said there have been no real efforts to encourage people to take up coffee farming since the crop was introduced to the area by missionaries in 1958.

Cherogony said while Baringo has over 15,000 hectares of land in the five sub-counties that is favorable for coffee farming, only 2,000 hectares have been utilized. 

jchepkwony@standardmedia.co.ke

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