Top coffee and tea officials are the first victims of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s reforms aimed at streamlining the sectors and putting more money into farmers’ pockets.
The chief executive officer of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange was the first high-ranking official to be sent home shortly after the first meeting on coffee reforms in Meru, which was shared by DP.
Daniel Mbithi, who had served at the helm for over six years, was dismissed by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), which oversees the coffee directorate.
Business Day Africa has established that the instructions to have him sent packing came from a “higher office.”
“We just implemented a directive from the top office which required AFA to replace Mr Mbithi,” a top official at AFA told this publication on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
AFA has placed an acting CEO in place before a substantive one is recruited in the coming days.
Mr Mbithi’s sacking was so discreet that not a lot of people, including stakeholders in the sector and the media, got to know about it.
Another casualty in the coffee sector is Enosh Akuma who had served as the head of the coffee directorate for almost four years.
Eng Akuma was demoted to a technical manager within the directorate with his position given to an acting manager.
The coffee exchange witnessed rapid growth in Mr Mbithi’s tenure with the platform transforming from a manual system to a digital one, which would let farmers follow the auction remotely without necessarily coming to the trading hall in Nairobi.
However, the NCE was always accused of manipulating prices at the auction by the previous government, a move which they denied arguing that the price was determined by the international market, where Kenya exports over 90 percent of the beverage that is produced locally.
Shortly after the two coffee officials were dismissed from their position, it was the turn of the Kenya Tea Development Agency chairman David Ichoho, who was directed to resign immediately after the tea conference in Kericho last month.
Mr Ichoho, who was serving his second year in office after the ouster of the long-serving chairman Peter Kanyago, was forced to write a hand-written letter during a board meeting, a directive that he complied with.
However, he later filed a court case challenging the move, but in a turn of events, he withdrew the case challenging his ouster.
Tension remains high at KTDA as sources indicate that more sacking, which will mainly affect the top officials is looming.