Sorghum farmers in Busia just got a new market after the giant Kenyan brewer, East African Breweries Limited promised to purchase their produce to manufacture Senator Keg Beer.
The promise follows a meeting with Busia County government officials and now five thousand farmers will supply the EABL plant in Kisumu.
“Supporting county development is key to our overall strategy and hence the choice of a Kisumu plant through an investment of Sh15 billion to set up a whole new value chain,” said EABL head of sustainability Jean Mugo.
In Busia, most sorghum farmers grow it subsistence and the promise of a new market heralds a new dawn for them. “Senator Keg is one of our best innovations and we created it to help fight the problem of illicit brews. It is safe, healthy, of high quality and meets the consumer at a price that is pocket friendly,” said Mugo.
This drink is purely made from sorghum and EABL is ready to contract farmers once they have formed and consolidated their farms for production of sorghum.
EABL is using a Western Fit strategy targeting five counties – Kisumu, Busia, Siaya, Migori and Homa Bay – where farmers will grow Sila sorghum, a variety suitable for production of the brand.
In July last year, East African Malting Limited a subsidiary of East African Breweries Limited launched a new sorghum variety, which delivers up to 15 per cent higher yields and is more resilient to the ever-changing weather conditions.
The new variety, which is resistant to pests, birds, drought and root lodging during heavy rains, has a high production and is easy to harvest with a special combine harvester.
The EAML general manager, Lawrence Maina revealed that commercial production of the seed had already began. “With the demand of Senator Keg soaring, our plan is to recruit more farmers, in order to ensure that our customers continue enjoying Senator keg uninterrupted. Our plan is to increase the current sorghum production from 30,000 tonnes to 40,000 tonnes by 2018,” Mr. Maina explained.
With Kenya Breweries Limited now sourcing 80 per cent of their sorghum locally, farmers have a ready market and an opportunity to make good returns.
Essential for the production of Senator Keg, sorghum farmers are supported by an solid value chain comprising of farmers, research institutes, seed companies, financial institutions, fertilizer providers as well as sector service providers.
KBL has contracted over 30,000 farmers. At the same time, KBL is providing a sustainable income to over 17,000 Senator Keg retailers and over 100 Senator Keg distributors.
Sorghum can withstand dry conditions (600mm annual rainfall) and remain green at very low moisture level. It can do well in very poor soils and most varieties of sorghum produce much more forage than maize. The lower leaves of sorghum do not dry as the plant matures, they remain green which reduce the cost of replanting, land preparation, seeds and time.
Sorghum is unique due to its tolerance to drought, water logging and Saline-alkali infertile soils and high temperature and has the potential of becoming a food security crop in Kenya. Kenya Breweries Limited, through the Jilishe kisha Uuze (grow, feed and sell) campaign, also encourages farmers to grow sorghum for food and sell the surplus for commercial use.