What you need to know:
- Licensed coffee buyers should get to be known and seen in the villages where coffee is produced and whoever sells coffee should be in a position to prove it came from his or her garden.
In most coffee producing areas this harvest season, the commonest crime is coffee theft. The thieves who normally act during the night invade gardens and harvest the crop or they steal the coffee from the farmers’ yards and quickly ride away on motorcycles. The farmers usually seek police help which involves the use of sniffer dogs to trace the thieves. In some cases the stolen coffee is not recovered since the dogs only manage to lead the police to the house of the suspect and by the time this happens the suspect has already sold it to fellow thieves who take it to locations several kilometers away where the dogs may fail to lead the police since the roads are used by several people carrying all sorts of items, which often defeats the dogs’ sense of smell.
Coffee prices have rapidly shot up and in many areas today a kilo of kase (FAQ) Robusta coffee is over six thousand shillings. It is the attractive price that is driving the thieves to steal the crop thus causing big losses to the farmers.
When the thieves harvest coffee, which usually happens in a hurry and under cover of darkness, they do not pick only red ripe cherries as should be the case. However they always get buyers for the low quality stolen crop. This presents a problem to the farmers who are expected to wait for the coffee to get fully ripe before harvesting it. To avoid more such losses the farmers resort to harvesting the crop before it is fully ripe, after all even the thieves always find buyers for the unripe coffee. Yet harvesting green coffee compromises its quality and lowers its price.
The recently passed Coffee Act strictly forbids harvesting unripe coffee cherries. According to the Act all coffee farmers should be registered as well as all the coffee traders. To address this problem the Act must begin to be fully enforced.
Licensed coffee buyers should get to be known and seen in the villages where coffee is produced and whoever sells coffee should be in a position to prove it came from his or her garden.
Mr Michael Ssali is a veteran journalist