Dormans boss kicked out of Coffee Board - The Star

Coffee Shop MD Jeremy Block has been fired from the Coffee Board of Kenya.

Agriculture minister William Ruto yesterday said he sacked Block because his membership represents a conflict of interest.

Ruto said Block has an interest in coffee milling.

However, the change is likely to have been influenced by complaints from coffee farmers, especially in Central Province. The minister's announcement came in the wake of a spirited fight by farmers affiliated to Mathira Coffee Millers to have Block sacked.

The farmers accused the Dorman's MD of influencing a decision by the Coffee Board to transfer a milling licence issued to them to two of his own companies.

The farmers, through their chairman Michael Gathitu, had appealed to Ruto to intervene and help them get back their licence from Block.

Gathitu had moved to court on behalf of the farmers seeking orders to stop a company associated with Block — Central Kenya Coffee Mills — from taking over the running of Mathira Coffee Mills.

They have also written to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission requesting that Coffee Board managing director Louise Njeru and Block be probed for allegedly transferring the licence issued to the farmers.

In a letter dated October 21, the farmers said Block influenced the Coffee Board MD to give his (Block's) private company the licence to run Mathira Coffee Mills Factory.

"Having been appointed a director of CBK by the Minister for Agriculture, Block swiftly took advantage and influenced the managing director to change and alter a coffee milling licence owned by farmers from Mathira," said farmers' letter.

The letter signed by vice chairman Kahuho Mathai claimed the Central Kenya Coffee Mills, which was issued with the new licence, is nonexistent.

The letter addressed to the director of KACC and received on October 26 says Block's action is tantamount to misuse of public office.

The farmers have also accused the MD Njeru of misleading the Minister for Agriculture to gazette the contentious licence issued to Block.

They further accuse the MD of allowing herself, despite her standing as a public servant, to be used for personal gain.

Meanwhile, coffee farmers in Mathira want two directors of the Coffee Board to be investigated for corruption and abuse of office.

While announcing the re-placement of Block on Monday, Ruto said his ministry is drafting a bill to streamline operations in the coffee sector.

Ruto was inaugurating the board of directors of Coffee Development Fund and Coffee Research Foundation.

He said the coffee sector needs more reforms to reflect the changing market environment for farmers to maximise profits.

"We intend to reform this sector and one of the reforms is to ensure that a person who is a miller is not at the same time a board member of CBK," Ruto said.

By Geoffrey Mosoku

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