Kenyan coffee farmers have been warned of an impending coffee harvest failure following the prevailing drought situation in the country. Dr. Charles Waturu, an agricultural crop scientist said rain that fell on a single day three weeks ago forced coffee trees to flower only to wither way.
The expert further added that after the coffee flowered, the rains should have continued through April and May as they normally would. However, the abrupt disappearance of normal rainfall pattern triggered some berry formation to abort.
Dr. Waturu said the drought caused the trees to experience water stress, which led to shedding off of premature berries. He also noted that even young berries that might have survived might as well end up with premature formation, automatically decreasing in quality and value.
Dr. Waturu, a lead crop researcher at the Thika-based Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), said production of coffee within Mt Kenya region will be at its lowest ever. In Kirinyaga County, there are two zones that produce the cash crop, but have since been badly hit by the drought.
On the other hand, in the lower zone where picking season kicked off this month coffee trees have produced berries, which unfortunately cannot ripen due to the harsh weather condition.
According to media reports, production of the crop within the lower zone is normally average while the berries are also of low quantity and quality. Similarly, on the upper zone of the county where the end of the flowering season was marked three weeks ago, farmers are a disappointed lot since this is where the berry formation aborted following the prolonged drought.
The county produces an average of 40 million kilograms of cherry per year, but this time around the farmers might not even realize 10 million kilograms, according to Waturu.