Coffee production in Kenya

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coffee production is a significant contributor to the economy of Kenya. The industry is noted for its cooperative system of production, processing, milling, marketing, and auction system. About 70% of Kenyan coffee is produced in small farms that control about 75% of the land under production.[1][2] It was estimated in 2012 that there were about 150,000 coffee farmers in Kenya.[3] Other sources suggest that 6 million Kenyans are employed directly or indirectly in the coffee industry.

The acidic soil in the highlands of central Kenya together with just the right amount of sunlight and rainfall provide excellent conditions for growing coffee plants. Coffee from Kenya is of the 'Colombia mild' type, and is well known for its intense flavor, full body, and pleasant aroma with notes of cocoa, high grade coffee from Kenya is one of the most sought-after coffees in the world.[3] However, due to a property boom in areas that grow coffee and price instability,[3] production in this African Great Lakes country fell from about 130,000 tonnes in 1987/8 to 40,000 tonnes in 2011/12.[4]


A coffee plantations in Kenya in 1936.
A coffee planter is shown how to prune by an Agricultural Department Instructor in 1955

Despite its proximity to Ethiopia (widely believed to be the region from which coffee originated), one source states that coffee was not cultivated in Kenya until 1893, when French Holy Ghost Fathers introduced coffee trees from Reunion Island. The mission farms near Nairobi were used as the nucleus around which Kenyan coffee growing developed.[5] Another reference claims the British introduced coffee growing about 1900.[6] In 1933 the Coffee Act was passed, establishing the Kenyan Coffee Board which moved the sale of coffee back to Kenya.[7] In the early 1950s, an agricultural act was passed to create family holdings that combined subsistence farming with the production of cash crops for additional income. This act was known as the Swynnerton Plan.[7]

Economic impact[edit]

Coffee is a key forex earner for the country.[8] Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates that coffee production in recent years has ranged from 34,500 to 51,900 tonnes.[8]

In the 2022-2023 coffee year, $127.8 million worth of coffee was sold through the Nairobi Coffee Exchange. This marked a 43.8% decrease from the 2021-2022 coffee year when $227.3 million was exchanged. This was largely caused by a drop in the price of coffee in the New York Intercontinental Commodity Exchange.[9] These prices began a rebound in 2024.[8]

Major coffee production areas[edit]

The major coffee-growing regions in Kenya are the high plateaus around Mount Kenya, the Aberdare Range, Kisii, Nyanza, Bungoma, Nakuru,[5] Kericho and to a smaller scale in Machakos and Taita hills in Eastern and coast provinces respectively.[10]

Kenya largely produces Arabica blend coffee.[11] Coffee from Kenya is a Colombia mild roast. It is well known for its intense flavor, full body, and pleasant aroma with notes of cocoa making high grade coffee from Kenya one of the most sought-after types in the world.[3]

Notable coffee estates, cooperatives and factories[edit]

  • Othaya Co-operative Society (Othaya, Nyeri)
  • Rung'eto Farmers Co-operative Society - Kii, Karimikui and Kiangoi Factories (Kirinyaga County, Ngariama ward)
  • Baragwi Farmers Co-operative Society - Karumandi, Kianyaga, Gachame Factories
  • Meru Central Coffee Coopararive Union - along Meru-Embu Highway

See also[edit]


  • Hyde, David. "'Paying for the Emergency by displacing the settlers': global coffee and rural restructuring in late colonial Kenya." Journal of Global History, Volume 4, Number 1 (2009).
  • Hyde, David. "Coffee and Decolonisation in Kenya: Overproduction, Quotas and Rural Restructuring." Commodities of Empire Working Paper Number 8, July 2008.[12]


  1. ^ "A bright future for Kenyan coffee". Solidaridad Network. 2023-12-22. Retrieved 2024-01-07.
  2. ^ "Coffee Sustainability: Kenya's Looming Crisis Amidst the Soaring Cost of Production". Solidaridad Network. Retrieved 2024-01-07.
  3. ^ a b c d Howden, Daniel (9 February 2012) Kenya's coffee wars The Independent, Retrieved 27 August 2013
  4. ^ K'Oroth, Sylvester (3 July 2013) Policy failure and inadequate technical capacity hurting Kenya’s coffee industry The Business Daily, Retrieved 27 August 2013
  5. ^ a b Kennedy, Patrick (June 2005)Royal News June 2005 - Kenya Coffee Archived 2006-05-08 at the Wayback Machine Sweet Marias, Retrieved 28 August 2013
  6. ^ Davids, Kenneth (2001) Coffees from Africa and Arabia: Kenya Coffee Review, Retrieved 27 August 2013
  7. ^ a b Hoffmann, James (2018). The World Atlas of Coffee 2nd Edition. Great Britain: Mitchell Beazley. p. 138. ISBN 978-1-78472-429-0.
  8. ^ a b c "Kenya's traded coffee volumes, prices rebound on participants' return". The East African. 2024-01-13. Retrieved 2024-01-26.
  9. ^ "Coffee earnings dipped Sh15b in 2022/23". 2023-12-01. Retrieved 2024-01-07.
  10. ^ Adams, Tim (17 February 2013) Andrew Rugasira: can coffee transform lives in Africa The Guardian, Retrieved 28 August 2013
  11. ^ "Kenya's coffee exports earnings fall on low global prices-Xinhua". Retrieved 2024-01-07.
  12. ^ Commodities of Empire is a British Academy Research Project, based at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Modern and Contemporary History

External links[edit]