New sorghum variety unveiled to boost productivity

East African Malting Ltd (EAML), a subsidiary of East African Breweries Ltd (EABL) has launched a new sorghum variety, which yields up to 15 per cent higher harvest and is more resilient to the current erratic climatic conditions.

The new sorghum variety named Hybrid White Sorghum 23012 was developed in partnership with Egerton University and Kenya Highland Seeds Company and aims to boost sorghum farmers’ livelihoods and also ensure a sustainable supply of raw material for the brewer’s production of Senator Keg beer.

Speaking during the launch of the sorghum variety in Narok, Lawrence Maina, the General Manager of EAML said that commercial production of the seed has already began.

“With the soaring demand of Senator Keg and the consequent opening of a production plant in Kisumu, we intend to recruit more farmers, to ensure our customers have a constant supply of the beer. Our plan is to increase the current sorghum production from 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes by 2018,” Mr Maina added.

According to Mr Maina, Hybrid White Sorghum 23012 — which is resistant to pests, birds, drought and root lodging during heavy rains and windy conditions — has high production rate and is easy to harvest using a special combine harvester.

Having been piloted at the 4000-acre Lalela Farm in Enelerai, Narok West, the Hybrid White Sorghum 23012, will be available to farmers in Bura, Hola, West Kano and Wei Wei Irrigation Schemes.

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This development will come as a welcome delight to EAML’s contracted farmers who previously had restricted options between only Gadam and Sila varieties, which flower in 40 to 60 days and mature in up to three months.

This programme is in line with EABL’s Jilishe kisha Uuze (Grow, feed then sell) campaign which encourages farmers to grow sorghum for food and sell the surplus and targets farmers owning at least an acre of land in the counties where the campaign runs.

At the launch forum, farmers were taken through EAML’s sorghum value chain from seed selection, land-tilting, fertiliser application, importance of extension officials and contracts drafting, to harvesting as well as storage to impart them with the requisite insight in best farming practices hence profiting from EAML’s readily available market for the produce.

Maina noted that the programme will bolster EABL’s sustainability policy, expand socio-economic benefits to rural smallholder farming communities and also create and accelerate a robust supply chain, contributing to the establishment of a stable macro-economic setting driven by farming and agribusiness.

Researchers at Egerton University are working on an ambitious project to enhance sorghum production.

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