Coffee farmers in the Mt.Kenya region are staring at losses after their crops were affected by the berry disease, a fungal infection caused by cold weather conditions and bacterial blight disease.
The disease has been reported in Embu, Nyeri, Murang’a and Nyeri counties.
The coffee berry disease attacks young berries and can wipe out entire crops in the farm if not controlled.
According to Ndung’u Kamau, a farmer based in Nyeri, coffee berries in the region have started falling prematurely and this he says can lead to loss of more than 50 per cent of the total projected harvest for this season.
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“It is actually the first time for this disease to attack our crops as previously it was only known to be centralized around farms in the Mt. Elgon area.
Farmers can control the disease by pruning their crops and spraying with copper oxychloride chemical that boosts the plants ability to resist diseases.
“I have used copper oxychloride chemical on my crops and it is effective by 80 per cent,” said Ndung’u.
Coffee berries affecteds by the disease. Photo: Courtesy
The Coffee Directorate of Kenya is currently training farmers in the region on how to control the disease.
This comes at a time when coffee production decreased by 11.5 per cent from 46.1 thousand tonnes in 2015/16 season to 40.8 thousand tonnes in 2016/17 season even though the area under coffee production increased by 700 hectares from 114.0 thousand hectares in 2015/16 to 114.7 thousand hectares in 2016/17.
The decline was attributable to cold and rainy weather conditions, the bi-modal production system where the crop takes time to recover in one year; and extended dry weather during picking which adversely affected coffee production according to the 2018 economic survey report.
Coffee production by co-operatives declined by 14 per cent from 30.8 thousand tonnes in 2015/16 to 26.5 thousand tonnes in 2016/17 season
The average yield for cooperatives and estates decreased by 16.3 and 10.3 per cent respectively in the 2016/17 crop year.
Kenya exports coffee to Germany (20 per cent), United States ( 17 per cent), Belgium (10 per cent) Sweden (eight per cent) and Finland (six per cent). Other export destinations include South Korea, Swirtzeland, France, United Kingdom and Canada.
Coffe from Kenya is used in the blending and specialty markets.