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Kenyan Leaders Unveil National Branding Effort, “Coffee Kenya Mark of Origin”

Coffee drying in Kenya. Creative Commons photo by Adam Posey.

Coffee drying in Kenya. Creative Commons photo by Adam Posey.

In yet another effort to recharge Kenya’s coffee sector, the country’s agriculture ministry has unveiled a branding and direct marketing initiative using the label “Coffee Kenya Mark of Origin.”

Introduced by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei Wednesday in Nairobi, the mark will be used by green coffee traders selling in bulk to international buyers, according to the Coffee Board of Kenya, which may also undergo some restructuring as part of the branding program.

Despite a reputation for quality in many growing regions, political corruption, lack of organization and resulting decreases in investment among farmers have diminished Kenya’s coffee output since high points in the 1990s. Coffee exports from Kenya in the 2013/14 season represented approximately $254 million USD, according to sources in a recent Reuters report, representing its fourth largest foreign exchange industry.

The 2013/14 crop year was also a controversial one in Kenya, as government leaders struggled to put forth mandates for central milling in several key growing regions, including Nyeri.

Government regulators have alleged unethical trading practices and mis-marketing of Kenyan coffees in international trade as reasons for increased regulation, while many buyers from consumer markets have voiced frustration that their previous trade relationships have been obscured by government interference in the sector.

The “Coffee Kenya Mark of Origin” label will require traders of Kenyan coffees to pay a small fee of approximately $109 USD and undergo a vetting process. All Africa reports that several already-approved sellers were highlighted at Wednesday’s announcement of the branding initiative, including Dormans Coffee, Gibsons Coffee and Kenya Nut Company.

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