KENYA'S COFFEE OUTPUT FALLS 16.2 PERCENT FROM PREVIOUS SEASON TO 70,000 TONS

KENYA'S COFFEE OUTPUT FALLS 16.2 PERCENT FROM PREVIOUS SEASON TO 70,000 TONS

Kenya's coffee production in the 1992-93 (October-September) year dwindled to just 70,000 metric tons, 16.2 percent down on the previous season, when output reached 83,600 tons, industry estimates show.

Coffee production, the worst for at least 13 years, has now fallen for six consecutive seasons, eating into Kenya's foreign exchange revenues. Coffee is the country's third-largest hard currency earner, after tea and tourism.Industry figures show that the early crop yielded 21,000 tons in 1992-93, down from last season's 23,638 tons. However, the main crop dropped to just 49,000 tons from 59,962.

Government spokesmen, however, still claim the 1992-93 crop will total 90,000 tons, way above independent estimates.

The Coffee Board of Kenya announced recently that the current season (1992-93) would be extended by two weeks to Oct. 15. The figures assume deliveries from farmers will average 2,500 60-kilogram bags (330,000 pounds) a week for the rest of the season.

Officials at the Kenyan Planters' Cooperative Union (KPCU), the country's largest coffee cooperative, blamed the sharp drop in production on dry weather, the continued effect of low prices since the suspension of the economic clauses of the International Coffee Agreement in 1989, the rising cost of imported fertilizer and spray chemicals and growing farm debt.

Small holders, who account for between 60 percent and 70 percent of coffee production here, are particularly badly hit by debt.

By late September, the KPCU's mill in Nairobi, which processes more than 90 percent of the country's coffee, had milled only 50,657 tons, down from 63,000 at the same stage last season.

Smaller mills at Dandora, Sagana and Meru had processed an additional 5,656 tons of off-grade coffee. Stocks have fallen to 6,835 tons, down from 10,689 tons because of lower production.

The prospects for Kenya's 1992-93 crop have grown bleaker in recent weeks, and even the more optimistic foresee no recovery in production for at least the next two seasons.