Brewer eyes to raise sorghum output for Kisumu keg factory
Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) is confident of sustainability in raw material supply to its Sh15 billion plant in Kisumu, officials have said.
The plant will use selected white sorghum varieties to brew one million tonnes of the company’s low-end beer – Senator Keg – once fully operational.
Inside sources said operations are expected to start next week, breathing life into the promise of 110,000 direct and indirect jobs. More than 20 per cent of the jobs will go to sorghum farmers in six counties in the Nyanza and Western regions.
East African Maltings Ltd (EAML), a subsidiary of the East African Breweries Limited (EABL), is coordinating the sorghum supply chain.
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EAML General Manager Lawrence Maina told Weekend Business the firm has enrolled 8,000 new farmers ahead of the planting season, which begins with the anticipated March rains. The weatherman forecasts the onset of long rains on March 15.
“Acceptability of the crop has been phenomenal, and we expect an upturn of 40 per cent in the grain delivered to the plant in the two seasons,” said Mr Maina. “We are looking at upwards of 10,000 tonnes in March and about 4,000 in the short rains that start in September.”
The launch was expected to drive up confidence among farmers, with an anticipated result in higher delivered quantities in the short run.
The number of contracts had grown to 140 from 80, he said.
EAML engages farmers classified into commercial individuals, with at least 10 acres, groups with a combined acreage of 100 acres or more and smallholders with small portions of as low as half acre.
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The last group supplies the bulk of the grain and are coalesced under aggregators.
Maina said a consortium of 13 partners, including the Government, seed companies, cereal growing organisations as well as financiers were already meeting farmers in engagements geared at boosting the uptake of sorghum farming as a viable agribusiness.
He said the anticipated upswing was buoyed by success in the first planting season, and the fact that sorghum was not new to the region.
“We saw in the first season alone prospects which took us five years to realise in the Eastern region,” said Maina.
“Our focus now shifts to improving the yield to about 12 to 15 bags per acre, and we are going to introduce two new seed varieties whose trials have shown a potential of 15 per cent higher returns.”
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The newly introduced varieties are KARI Mtama and Hybrid 23012. These add to Sila and Gadam, which are in the market.
Maina said 40 tonnes of the seeds had been distributed through aggregators for sale to farmers.
He assured farmers that the sourcing procedure was waterproof and under keen scrutiny of Government auditors.
KBL gets a tax exemption for sourcing the grain locally, in efforts to strengthen commercialisation of sorghum farming.
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“EAML does not trade in sorghum and so no one can come to us with ready grain without a contract, which spells where such sorghum was grown and the acreage thereof,” said Maina.