Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has ordered a two-month operation against coffee theft in the central region.
Speaking during a meeting with the regional security officials, Dr Matiang’i expressed concern over the growing trend of coffee theft in the region.
“Theft of coffee has almost gone out of proportion. We are going to work on a ruthless operation to sort this thing out,” CS Matiang’i said.
Dr Matiang’i has directed Central Regional Commissioner Wilson Njega and Regional Police Commander Solomon Makau to lead the operation with the support of the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
The stern orders from Dr Matiang’i also came with a caution to administrators and the police against complicity or complacency in dealing with the theft coffee.
“You cannot lie to anybody that you sit in this region and fail to know who these criminals are,” he said.
The order comes as farmers prepare for the coffee harvesting season which begins in November and stretches to early January.
During this season, coffee storage comes with a security risk that causes jitters among growers and cooperatives as gangs and cartels strike and steal the precious commodity.
According to the CS, wealthy players in the coffee sector will be a focal point in the operation against the cartels who have for decades controlled the sector at the expense of local farmers.
Already, NIS detectives have started following leads in the pursuit of the culprits behind the crime.
“Some of these people claim to be planters and suppliers yet they do not even have a single bush. They are the ones who pay criminals to terrorise farmers in the central region. However wealthy they are, look for them and apprehend the entire lot,” the CS said.
Although the rate of coffee thefts has been on the decline, the Interior ministry has reason to believe that farmers are not yet safe from coffee thieves hence the need for drastic action.
This year alone, coffee worth close to Sh3 million was stolen from factories in Embu and Kirinyaga Counties.
In June robbers raided Minai Coffee Factory in Runyenjes Constituency and stole 75 bags of clean coffee worth Sh2.7million.
In August, coffee worth Sh1 million was stolen from Karia Coffee Factory.
While the thefts were low in 2017, the region lost approximately 800 bags of coffee worth more than Sh157 million in 2016 alone.
To date, most of these coffee theft cases have remained largely unresolved with no arrests or prosecutions.