By John Majau
Security agencies in Meru County have raised an alarm after three coffee factories lost more than 360 bags of coffee valued at Sh5.8 million in the last six months.
Police now suspect insiders could be colluding with criminals to have the coffee stolen.
This is because most of the incidents are said to happen immediately after members meet and decide on when to deliver the coffee for milling.
Security agencies now agree with this theory saying the manner in which the theft is executed is suspect, pointing collusion.
Meru County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo said the theft has left small-scale farmers grappling with poverty from losses running into millions of shillings.
Speaking recently during a meeting attended by chairpersons from various Coffee Societies and coffee factory leaders in Meru, Ngumo noted that three factories have lost 364 coffee bags worth Sh5.8 to theft this year.
These are the Kieru Factory which lost 234 coffee bags worth Sh3.1 Million, Tigania Factory where robbers stole 80 coffee bags worth Sh2Million and Kiambogo Factory which lost 50 bags worth Sh700, 000.
Mr Ngumo accused the coffee factory managers and committees of employing incompetent watchmen and failing to liaise with police especially when coffee beans are dry and ready for sale.
“Rampant coffee theft started in 2019 in this region and since I came in January this year three factories have been raided. I may not be able to speak on what happened before I came to this region but I know what it means to farmers to lose their coffee because I am a farmer too”, Ngumo said.
The no-nonsense commissioner authorized Deputy County Commissioners to vet all coffee factory managers and watchmen serving in various factories in the County.
Ngumo cautioned coffee factories against storing large quantities of coffee beans for a long period when ready for sale.
The Commissioner demanded coffee managers to inform the Officer in Charge of Station (OCS) whenever a factory has a large quantity of coffee beans awaiting to be sold.
According to Ngumo, informing the OCS will enable securing of the coffee and will also hold the officer in charge accountable if the coffee is stolen.
Mr Ngumo also called on the managers to ensure coffee factories are well protected through employing capable watchmen, erecting security fences, installing CCTV and Security lights among other security measures.
Meru County Police Commander Nyaga Muchungu called on coffee farmers to ensure people representing them as leaders are reliable and honest.
Muchungu asked the coffee managers to ensure people protecting the factories as watchmen are capable and skilled.
Meru County Cooperatives Director Mugambi Sandi noted that coffee factories have also been losing land to grabbers.
Meru Central Coffee Union Chairperson Ephantus Majau called on farmers to unite and ensure that their factories are safe.
Majau also asked coffee managers to ensure farmers and the OCS are aware when the coffee is in store as a way to curb theft.
Meru County has 144 coffee factories. The County also has 47 Sacco societies under the Meru Coffee Co-operative Union, with a membership of over 80,000 farmers.