The vast majority of the coffee bought and sold in Kenya is traded through the national auction system, where marketing agents enter cooperatives’ and estates’ coffee and traders come to bid. The main buyers from this auction system are large multinationals, who then offer the lots to importers and roasters. Unfortunately, this has been the only way to purchase Kenyan coffee for a long time and we’ve become frustrated with the lack of transparency, poor service and price volatility. In the last couple of years we have started buying directly from the auction using a local Kenyan company, who bid on the coffee on our behalf, after we have cupped through auction samples filtered by a local cupper. This was not only a conscious decision to support local, Kenyan businesses, but also to make the supply chain more efficient and save money, in order to pass on those savings to roasters. We hope that these savings help increase the presence of Kenyan coffees on roasters’ menus. This is intended to be the first part of a plan to work on the transparency limitations in Kenya and ultimately the goal is to avoid using the auction system at all, by working directly with farmers’ associations, cooperatives and small estates, and not through a marketing agent.
Ndundu is part of the Thiririka FCS and we are happy to have coffees from this factory because are producing outstanding and very reliable coffees due to their diligent control over each farmer practices.
The affiliate members of the co-op are required to be extremely diligent to carry out all agronomic activities associated with high quality coffee production, including sourcing coffee seeds from the Coffee Research Institute’s Coffee Research Station. Planting and cultivating is implemented according to the guidelines submitted by the group leaders and technical advisors. Fieldwork involves weeding, pruning, application of fertiliser, mulching and technical advice. Technical advice is offered through farmer training programs and field visits offered by the ministry of agriculture.
Best practices are checked and supervised by the field committee, who visit farms in the area and check that coffee is not inter-cropped with maize and beans, though they do allow inter-cropping with Macadamia. They also encourage farmers who have abandoned their coffee production to return to production and access better prices for their crops.
As for the rest of the coop in the Ndundu factory all coffee cherries are handpicked and are delivered to the mill the same day, where they will get rigourously sorted through floatation tanks, whilst factory employees oversee the process and any under ripe or damaged cherries will not be accepted by the “Cherry Clerk”, who keeps meticulous records of how much coffee each producer delivers on any given day and thus how much payment is due once the coffee has been sold.