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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Kenyan coffee faces tough 2003
Coffee beans
2003 is turning out to be another tough year for Kenya's coffee growers, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials have warned.

In a regular report to Washington DC, the USDA attache in Nairobi said that production in the 2002-3 financial year would barely top that of the year before, and low world coffee prices will continue to make farmers' lives difficult.

The forecast is for a 55,000 tonne crop this year, after a harvest of 52,000 tonnes in 2001-2.

"Due to the low prevailing prices, even the large coffee estates have recorded losses," the report says.

In New York on Monday, arabica coffee futures were selling for 57 US cents a pound, little more than two thirds the 80-100 cent level some experts see as "normal".

New broom

There are signs that after being run down in the final years of the last government, the onset of a new administration for the first time in decades has encouraged farmers to be more optimistic.

The report mentions neglected farms "have received some notable attention since the year began", as farmers hope the new government will work harder to promote the coffee trade.

But the difficulties of the world market mean that smallholders will need to switch to other cash crops, the USDA warned.

The implementation of the Coffee Act three years ago was meant to relieve the strain on coffee growers by shaking up the control of the state Coffee Board over the sector, but has yet to make much of an impact, the attache said.

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