In a surprising turn of events, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi has been excluded from a crucial committee tasked with spearheading coffee reforms in the country. The decision has raised eyebrows and sparked speculation about the reasons behind his omission.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who is leading the efforts to revitalize the coffee subsector, has appointed Simon Chelugui as the Chairperson of the new committee.
Mr. Chelugui is the Cabinet Secretary in charge of the Cooperatives, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) docket.
This move has left many wondering why Linturi, the Cabinet Secretary responsible for overseeing the agricultural sector, was not chosen to lead the reform efforts.
The coffee reforms steering committee has been given a one-month mandate to implement the much-needed changes in the coffee subsector.
Its establishment is part of the ongoing efforts by the office of the Deputy President to coordinate reforms in various sectors, including coffee, as outlined in Executive Order Number 1 of 2023 issued by President Ruto.
This development comes on the heels of the recent coffee stakeholders conference held in Meru two weeks ago.
During the conference, Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire exposed the existence of three companies that have been literally strangling coffee farmers.
Governor Mbarire outlined how these companies, which constantly morph between buyers, marketers, and millers, exert undue influence over coffee prices, thereby impeding the growth of the commodity.
However, CS Linturi made a surprising admission, stating that he was unaware of the identities of the cartels that have been plaguing the coffee subsector.
This revelation raised concerns about the level of knowledge and understanding within the Ministry of Agriculture regarding the challenges facing the coffee industry.
It is not yet clear whether this admission by Mr. Linturi led to his omission from a critical committee that is expected to spearhead reforms in a subsector under his Agriculture docket.
Members appointed to the Steering Committee include Danie Wamahiu, Julius Korir (PS Cabinet Affairs), Alfred K’Ombudo (PS Trade), Timothy Mirugi (CEO New KPCU), Wycliffe Shamiah (CEO Capital Markets Authority) and Esther Kariuki (Co-operative Bank).
Other members include Dr. Gichuru Elijah (Coffee Research Institute), Mary Mwiti (CEO, Council of Governors), Willis Audi (DG, Agriculture and Food Authority) and Eric Wachira (Office of the Deputy President) among others.
The first meeting of the steering committee is scheduled to be chaired by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua on 21st June 2023.
It remains to be seen how the committee, under the leadership of Chelugui, will tackle the deep-rooted problems affecting the coffee sector and bring about the desired reforms.
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