The ongoing Coffee conference in Meru has lifted a can of worms about Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi’s inability to eradicate cartels ailing the coffee subsector in Kenya.
The revelation came to light when 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.
Shockingly, these companies were heavily represented at the conference, and their delegations were expected to contribute in the discourse on how to make the coffee sector better.
It was however alarming to hear CS Linturi claim that this was his first encounter with the names of these companies, notwithstanding his tenure in office spanning nearly a year.
Governor Mbarire further revealed a disturbing pattern in which these cartels corrupt cabinet secretaries by offering them substantial amounts of money in briefcases, effectively silencing them.
These revelations raise serious doubts about CS Linturi’s commitment to his role as the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary. If it takes a Governor to identify and expose the names of cartels operating in his own sector, how many decades will it take him to effectively tackle this thorny issue?
The ignorance displayed by CS Linturi regarding these influential companies is troubling, and it raises doubts about his suitability for the task at hand.
And his response? “I will revoke their licenses immediately. They can take me to court if they wish!”
The eradication of cartels requires a proactive approach, in-depth knowledge, and a firm commitment, not 15 seconds of emotions and ‘mimi ni mmeru’ antics.
Kenyan citizens deserve an Agriculture Cabinet Secretary who can effectively confront cartels and champion the interests of farmers.
It is imperative for CS Linturi to demonstrate a clear plan of action and outline steps he will take to address the influence of cartels in the coffee subsector.
His predecessor Peter Munya would always sing about cartels in the Media, without any tangible action. Kenyans are now worried about the actual power and influence these cartels wield in the industry.
Further, the resilience and longevity of these cartels indicate that they possess a significant degree of influence within the coffee subsector. Their ability to persistently manipulate prices, obstruct progress, and corrupt key stakeholders suggests a network deeply embedded in the industry’s fabric.
The fact that multiple Cabinet Secretaries have struggled to curb their activities underscores the formidable challenges posed by these entities.
However intriguing it may sound, maybe farmers should starve the cartels by ceasing coffee production for 5 to 10 years.
A concerted effort, driven by determined leadership, is necessary to dismantle the influence of these cartels. That leadership cannot be found in Mithika Linturi.
The author is a Digital Strategist. He occasionally writes on matters Technology, Politics and Health