Kenya is located on the east side of the African continent between Ethiopia and Tanzania. It is one of the economically developed countries in Africa and the capital Nairobi is lined with skyscrapers and there is a money service that allows money transfers and payments via cell phones called M-PESA. This money service accounts for more than 50% of the country’s GDP, which shows the development of technology. The port of Mombasa in southern Kenya is the largest international port in East Africa and it functions as a trade hub not only for Kenya but also for neighboring countries. Politically speaking, Kenya was under British rule for a long time and gained independence in 1963. Swahili and English are spoken as the official languages. The main agricultural products are tea and cut flowers and coffee accounts for only about 4% of the total agricultural products.
Coffee Production in Kenya
Kenya is home to many volcanoes including Mount Kenya and has an ideal environment for growing coffee with nutrient-rich red volcanic ash soil, altitude, and climate. Although Kenya is a neighboring country to Ethiopia, where coffee originated, it is a relatively new coffee-producing country, with coffee production having started about 100 years ago. The Nyeri and Embu districts at the foot of Mount Kenya are famous as production areas and both of them are about a three-hour drive from the capital Nairobi. There are concerns about the loss of farmland due to urbanization.
In Kenya where coffee production is completely systematized, coffee seems to be more of an industry than agriculture. It is inorganic and emotionless, and the mills give us the impression of being factories for industrial products. It is deeply influenced by the historical background of being under British rule.
There are only a limited number of coffee varieties produced in Kenya and SL28, SL34, Ruiru11, and Batian account for the majority of the coffee produced in Kenya. The name SL comes from the Scott Agricultural Laboratories, which was established by the British during the colonial period. The SL28 and SL34 have excellent productivity and quality that have now spread to other producing countries.
The Coffee Research Foundation, currently called Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), has recognized Ruiru11 and Batian as resistant to diseases such as rust disease and Coffee Berry Disease (CBD). Ruiru11 was developed in 1985 as a disease control measure but it was evaluated as having inferior cup quality. To overcome the weakness, Batian was developed in 2010, which offers superior cup quality while maintaining disease resistance. Ruiru is the name of the place where the research institute was located and Batian is the name of the peak of Mount Kenya.
Reference: World Coffee Research
Also, Kenya’s coffee production is based on a well-organized auction-based system. Ninety percent of the coffee in Kenya is sold through auctions held every Tuesday at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. The auction system is very good in that it is said the Cup of Excellence was built on the system as a reference. The Cup of Excellence has never been held in Kenya, probably because there is no need for it.
While the quality of the coffee is evaluated fairly, there is no room for producers to negotiate the price. Not only that, producers get the payment several months after the sale is concluded due to the way the system is set up. This causes problems for producers, and is considered the fundamental problem behind the high price and decrease in the coffee production in Kenya.
A new generation is now making moves to overcome the structural weakness. We want to present to you two curators who are representing the new era. We hope you will be there to witness the turning point in history. We care for the future of coffee in Kenya.