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Sorghum farmers want higher prices as KBL offers Sh33 a kilo

Small scale farmers in western Kenya want East Africa Breweries Limited to offer better prices for sorghum, decrying high production costs.

The farmers are demanding purchase of a kilogram of sorghum at Sh50 but Kenya Breweries is saying it will offer Sh33 per kilogramme of the brewing ingredient.

The farmers also want the firm to involve them in decision making regarding the setting of purchase prices since they have been ignored for long.

Speaking to the Star on phone, Jane Kisia, a sorghum farmer from Nyando Sub County said the company has not yet approached them on contracting but they expect better prices than in 2015.

Kisia is the leader of Oriama Tera Scheme in Nyando Sub County that plants sorghum on 100 acres.

“An agent from KBL purchased sorghum from us at Sh26 per kilo in 2014 and 2015. Now due to the high costs of production, we expect the newly launched plant to buy one kilogramme at Sh50,” She said.

From her experience, it costs not less than Sh40,000 to produce sorghum on 2.4 acres.

However, East Africa Maltings’ General Manager Lawrence Maina said that KBL is willing to purchase a kilogramme of the product at Sh33 and increase it incase shortage strikes.

According to the 2017 Economic survey the price of sorghum per kilogramme in September 2015 was Sh53.60 and Sh52.58 in September 2016.

The report also records that the production of sorghum in the country decreased by 38.1 per cent from 2.1 million bags in 2015 to 1.3 million bags in 2016.

The call for better prices follows an announcement by KBL that they intend to increase the total number of sorghum farmers in the country from the current 30,000 to around 45,000 farmers during the launch of the Kisumu plant operation.

The increase is pegged on an anticipated rise of Senator Keg production by 100 million litres in the first 5 years.

In response to the farmers demand, Maina said that KBL is offering forward contract to the farmers for a guarantee price and market every time they plant the crop.

“We are reaching out to the farmers in marginal areas to adopt sorghum farming and working with them through our technical and extension teams to improve unit yields through improved agronomy and introduction of high yielding varieties,” Maina said

However, he did not outline the timelines to sign the contracts with the farmers, despite having a team of agronomist based in the field continuously training farmers on use of inputs and introducing new varieties especially hybrids in bid to double sorghum requirement and thus open new opportunities for farmers in the western region.

The market is open to all farmers from individual, groups and community based organizations.

For small scale farmers who do not qualify for direct contracts because of logistical challenges, the firm has put inplace aggregators to coordinate collections.

To ensure quality of the sorghum before delivery, the firm intends to train the farmers and apply mechanization of post-harvest operations by threshing the crop.

Recommissioning of the Kisumu plant is expected to spur the regional and national economy through creation of over 1,500 direct jobs, while more will come from the 22,000 new farmers set to benefit from supplying the new brewery with sorghum.

Combined with the distribution and retail ends of the value chain, the new plant is expected to employ over 100,000 locals.

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