How Kenyan is Minting Money From Brewing Coffee in America

  • Laban Njuguna, Co-founder of the Zabuni Specialty Coffee Auction at its Nebraska offices on Saturday, November 6
    Laban Njuguna, Co-founder of the Zabuni Specialty Coffee Auction at its Nebraska offices on Saturday, November 6
    File
    Jazari Kual ,Flatwater Free Press
  • As Kenyan coffee farmers decry the government's failure to remunerate them accordingly for their input in the well capitalized industry, one Kenyan has taken it upon himself to ensure that they are well paid for their sweat.

    Kenyan-born and raised Laban Njuguna of Zabuni Specialty Coffee Auction took it upon himself to bridge that gap between Kenyan coffee farmers and vast American coffee market in a bid to foster the growth of the industry in Kenya.

    Raised in a Kenyan middle-class family, Njuguna has a grasp of the coffee industry as some of his family members own a couple of plantations, and when he moved to the United States to further his education, he noticed that the coffee sold in Nebraska where he lives was very expensive and its supply very inconsistent.

    Zabuni Coffee Bags in a Nebraska supermarket in the United States dated Saturday, November 6
    Zabuni Coffee Bags in a Nebraska supermarket in the United States dated Saturday, November 6
    File
    Jazari Kual ,Flatwater Free Press

    He initially started out in the trucking business, where he moved agricultural products in America but felt the need to venture into the coffee business as he was knowledgeable owing to his background in Kenya.

    His company, which he co-founded with his wife, Cora Huenefeld, connects Kenyan coffee farmers and American buyers by auctioning their coffee online, to which interested buyers place bids in online or in-person auctions on different coffee brews offered by the farmers.

    Zabuni Company aims to cut out the role of the middle man , linking the farmers directly with the buyers hence their profit is increased as there are no third parties benefiting from the sale of their coffee.

    Through this, a farmer is guaranteed to get 80-85 percent of the price of a 60-kg (132lbs) bag of coffee estimated at Kshs 28,000($250), which would otherwise be a 15-20 percent cut in Kenya through sale by brokers.

    The company also foots the transportation and storage fees as the coffee received from the Kenyan farmers is shipped and stored in company's climate-controlled warehouse in Nebraska.

    He draws inspiration from his background in Kenya, as he understands the work that goes into coffee farming, that is mainly non-mechanized involving picking, drying, sorting and ferrying the precious commodity by hand to factories. According to him, it is an injustice to the farmers when they do not receive the profits off their hard work.

    Not everyone Njuguna meets in the industry becomes a fan of his business model. Zabuni’s method draws criticism from people in the supply chain who feel they are losing value. “You have to have pretty tough skin. But I love this industry. Its passion is infectious,” he stated in an interview with an international publication.

    On Wednesday, October 20, President Uhuru Kenyatta in his Mashujaa day speech directed that the National Treasury to allocate KSh. 1 Billion to the Ministry of Agriculture to be appropriated towards completion of the ongoing targeted interventions in the coffee sub-Sector.

    These funds will fast-track reforms in the sector such as the revitalization of the New Kenya Planters Coffee Union that has brought healthy competition into coffee milling activities.

    Coffee aired out to dry after harvesting in Kenya
    Coffee aired out to dry after harvesting in Kenya
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