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Small, mid-sized coffee farmers raise incomes 35% through pulping

Coffee pulping or shelling refers to the removal of the red skin from ripe coffee cherries. This leaves a fruit or pulp for washing/ fermentation and drying.

In Kenya, this is usually done by farmer society factories or privately owned coffee estates.

This primary level of value addition is however now being practiced by small to mid-sized individual coffee farmers, raising their incomes by over 35 per cent.

“Coffee pulping is the major on-farm processing step that can be undertaken by a farmer. Pulped and dried coffee puts coffee growers in the driving seat as to when they want to sell and to whom,” said Moses Wambua, a pulping machine fabricator at McKinnon Machines.

Crucially, farmers with high-quality coffee (AA/AB), get to realise the true value of their cherry as it is not mixed in with low-graded coffee.

“AA/AB coffee can fetch you about seven dollars a kilo. Within a society, all delivered coffee is bunched together. If you deliver high-grade coffee, it is mixed in with that of a lower grade (C, TT, T). As everyone is paid at the same average price, this means you’ll earn three dollars and some cents, explained agronomist and coffee farm manager David Ndegwa. 

Coffee pulp can also be fed to plants as a biofertilizer. Research has shown it can also serve as a biological control of plant pathogens; feed for chickens, sheep, goats, fish, and other animals, and as food for microorganisms and worms.

A coffee pulping license can be accessed at county agricultural offices by any farmer with at least five acres of coffee.

Coffee pulping machines available to small-scale and medium-scale farmers can go for as low as Sh45,000 to as high as half a million shillings.

This is dependent on budget, installed features, availability of water and electricity on site, coffee acreage/ volume, durability, and how finely tuned the machine is to a farmer’s particular needs.

Conventional coffee pulpers

They are made up of local custom-made and Chinese-imported pulpers.

These include:

  1. Drum pulpers

Best suited to farmers with between one and two acres or 1,000 -2,000 trees. They cost between Sh80,000 and 110,000 for locally made machines and Sh45,000-50,000 for Chinese imports.

  1. Mini disc pulper

They are best for growers with 2,000 to 10,000 trees. They can shell 700 to 800 kg of parchment an hour. Local mini disk pulpers cost Sh180,000.

  1. Single disk pulper

Ideal for farmers with five to 10 acres of coffee. They can handle up to one tonne of work an hour. A local single disk pulper costs Sh360,000. 

Eco-pulpers

These are machines that sort coffee parchment using minimal water or no water at all.

“While conventional pulpers use up to 20 liters of water to pulp a kilogram of cherry, eco-pulpers will at most use just five liters. If the coffee has a high quantity of mucilage a farmer can pulp it without using any water,” said Alpha Mahindu, manager at Coffee Agriworks.

For small and mid-sized farmers we have 10 customisable mini pulping machine varieties that pulp 800 kg/hr and cost between Sh250,000 to 500,000. The more expensive the machine the more features it has and less manual labour a farmer will have to employ.

*While Chinese pulpers are cheap they are not customisable, and have a shorter shelf life.

McKinnon Machines: 0722957051

Coffee Agriworks: 0731 803 913

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