1. Kenya: Will high-end coffee produce higher incomes? (Inter Press Service)

| December 8, 2008

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The Blue Mountains of Jamaica are the highest in the Caribbean, rising 2,200 metres to the sky. In these cool and misty hills, one of the world’s most sought-after coffees is grown. Prized for its mild flavour and lack of bitterness, Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee easily fetches 45 American dollars per pound.

Coffee farmers organized under the Kenya Planters Co-operative Union hope that, one day, Kenya Blue Mountain coffee will be equally prized. The farmers union is working to brand varieties of Kenyan coffee according to the regions where they are produced.

Sylvester K’okoth is the union’s Value Addition and Marketing Manager. He says that coffee branding should benefit coffee growers by increasing the market price. Farmers in the Blue Mountain region stand to earn the greatest profits, since their coffee is said to have properties similar to its Jamaican counterpart. The union is also working to market Mt. Kenya and Aberdares brands.

But even as high-end Kenyan coffee is finding a niche in the international market, farmer profits remain low.

Loise Njeruis is managing director of the Coffee Board of Kenya. He says that farmers are not producing enough coffee to fully benefit from the better prices that branding brings. Currently, the average farmer produces about three kilograms of beans per tree. Mr. Njeruis speculates that, if farmers in branded growing regions could produce 15 kilograms of beans per tree, they would start to see good revenues.

In recent years, there has been a push to brand various varieties of African coffees in order to fetch a better price in international markets. Africa’s top coffee producer, Ethiopia, led the way by branding three specialty coffees: Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, and Harar. Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania, have all created international brands for their coffees.

African coffee stepped into the spotlight earlier this year when the Cup of Excellence – a non-profit organization that hosts the world’s largest coffee competitions – held an event for the first time on African soil, in Kigali, Rwanda.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on coffee branding