Kenya Karatu coffee from Gatundu sub-county’s Gitwe Farmers’ Co-operative Society is the 2016 Good Food Awards Global winner.
The coffee sold under the Klatch Karatu brand beat another 1,837 entries from around the world that competed at the US’ annual festival that saw 203 judges participate in a blind tasting contest.
Gitwe Farmers’ Chairman Francis Maara said their production had shot from 340,000kilogrammes to record a triple increase in 2014 when 700,000kilogrammes was produced.
Last year, Gitwe farmers hit the jackpot in their five decade history when they produced and sold 1 million kilogrammes to the US, Europe and Japan.
“If we get the Sh135million we have applied from the Commodities Development Fund, expect our farmers to not only increase production in volume but also in quality, said Mr Maara.
The 2,500 farmers, 300 youthful, 700 women and the 1,500 elderly men, who own smallholder farms have seen their input costs fall since they also enjoy free services from an agronomist seconded to them by the government and Nestle foods, he added. .
Klatch Coffee’s Roastmaster and founder, Mr Mike Perry said: “The bean starts with a sweet cocoa and floral aroma. The cup offers complex flavors of apricot, blackberry and tomato with an orange-brandy finish.”
Mr Maara said Gitwe had made major strides in recent times since farmers had kept off coffee politics known to disrupt coffee farming and business leading to poor production, quality and marketing.
Karatu Coffee Factory is located in Gatundu South and was established in 1965 on an 11 acre piece of land serving nine societies around the area.
Area MP Moses Kuria attributed the Karatu’s victory to recent developments where the Kiambu government allowed farmers to form the Gatundu South Progressive Union that is overseeing development of coffee via sourcing of fertiliser and credit.
Among the finalist coffee brands were four top performers from Kenya, Kenya Karatu, which was presented by the California based roaster, Klatch coffee, Kenya Gachatha saw two entries make it to the final list and was brought in by the Colorado based Commonwealth Coffee and NEAT Coffee which is based in Connecticut.
Gatundu also had another finalist Karinga AB presented by Idaho based Evans Brothers and another from the foothills of Mount Kenya called Kenya AA Blue Mt from Oregon’s Abundancia Coffee.
Mr Perry described the win as a market boost for the Kenyan coffee saying buyers would have to place orders well in advance before it is sourced from Kenya.
Mr Kuria said farmers would enjoy a two year grace period with the loan becoming payable for the next three years.
“Subsidised fertiliser saw Gatundu South record a bumper harvest like never before. They are food secure and our next project is to see them engage in commercial dairy farming. This means that when coffee is in the farms they have money to meet their daily needs,” he said.
Mr Maara who is also the Kiambu County Co-operatives Chairman said Coffee farming could be jolted into a new prime status is the government gives farmers guaranteed minimum return price, like it does to maize and wheat.
The government also needs to clear all the debts owed to banks to enable farmers’ co-operatives get back their title deeds currently held by banks. He said cheap capital would also enable them purchase new machines to process coffee since their current ones were old and costly to repair since their spare parts are not locally available.
Mr Kuria added that politics must be kept off coffee and dairy farming to enable economic growth to take place on a faster pace where unity among farmers would guarantee a cheaper mode of sourcing for items for single group instead of fragmented groupings that could easily be swayed by middlemen.
Mr Maara said that the US victory had lured many coffee buyers to their farms from as far as japan, Canada and USA with many seeking to place future orders.
“Demand for our coffee is increasing and we have advised our farmers to intensify production of quality coffee. Our agronomist, Mr Joseph Kagombe visits all the farms to advise farmers on the best field practices. We also run a demonstration plot as well as a coffee nursery where we raise seedlings and sell to farmers,” he said.
Gitwe sells Arabica coffee and is involved in promotion of Batian and Ruiru 11 on individual farms among Gitwe’s members.