Implementation of the task force report commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta has started on the wrong footing after the court suspended application of the coffee rules meant to cure the ailing sector.
The Coffee Regulations 2016, which are key in achieving the proposed recommendations have been stopped after the Council of Governors and a farmers’ lobby group moved to the corridors of justice seeking an injunction to stop their effecting.
The governors received the orders stopping implementation of the regulations a fortnight ago, while the National Farmers Federation (NFA), which argues that some of the rules are punitive to growers, got the orders on Thursday.
The government says the move will delay the much needed reforms as nothing can be done at the moment given the injunction.
Governors argue that the government, through the Ministry of Agriculture passed the regulations without conducting public participation or tabling the same in Parliament for approval as required under the Statutory Instrument Act.
“Leave be, and is hereby granted to applicants... prohibiting them (1st and 2nd respondent) from implementing the coffee General Regulation 2016,” reads the court orders.
The county bosses say agriculture is a fully devolved function under the Constitution and that they have to be consulted on any matter relating to the sector.
Delay the reforms
“The national government’s role in the Constitution is strictly limited to policy while implementation of these policies and other agricultural functions are a preserve of the county governments,” said the governors through their lawyer Peter Wanyama.
Head of coffee directorate Greenville Kiplimo said the government would respond to the case in a few days.
“We will be replying on what has been said in the court. These cases will definitely delay the reforms that we have been pushing for in the sector,” said Mr Kiplimo.
Among other things, the regulations require farmers to notify the authority on the acreage planted or uprooted within six months of doing so.
NFA says the coffee directorate would have sought the input of the growers before gazetting some of the laws that will affect them.
“We are a key stakeholder in the coffee sector, but the directorate did not bother to seek our input in the entire process of drafting the regulations,” said Mr Harrison Munyi, the NFA chairperson. The federation last month disowned recommendations of the task force appointed by Mr Kenyatta, saying their views were altered to meet interests of cartels.
The lobby claimed that 80 per cent of their views were changed in unfamiliar circumstances and threatened to move to court to annul the report.
Implementation of the task force findings was expected to begin in the next few weeks and some players in the coffee value chain feel that it is headed for disaster because it has focused on the farmer rather than the entire industry.
The report of the task force proposed an increase in direct sales from the current 10 per cent to 30 per cent, promotion of specialty coffee and turning the Nairobi Coffee Exchange (NCE) into a public limited company.
Currently, 90 per cent of Kenyan coffee is traded at the NCE before accessing the export market with only 10 per cent finding its way to the international outlets through direct sales.