Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL)’s entry into the sorghum market for keg beer production holds the potential to raise farmers’ profitability by up to 220 percent and contribute to addressing food insecurity, according to a newly published research paper.
In line with the government’s Big 4 Agenda on food security and manufacturing, and given their extensive experience contracting over 45,000 sorghum farmers in Kenya, KBL partnered with Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute to produce a research paper titled “Sorghum Production In Kenya” with the objective of sharing knowledge and best practices.
The paper details how sorghum crop has resurged to claim its place as both a cash crop and the growing potential to provide food security solutions. It evaluates sorghum production in Kenya, farmer characteristics, availability of inputs, and opportunities for sorghum growers in the global market.
“We are not only providing a ready market with our forward contracts with over 45k farmers, but also playing a catalytic role to inject growth and recognition of the sorghum crop” said Jane Karuku, KBL managing director, during the launch event. “The introduction of Senator Keg beer provided a pull factor for sorghum to claim its space as a cash crop”
She added, “Our belief is that the cro
p will develop further to continue offering food security and income from selling locally and even globally to improve standards of living in Kenya”
KBL and Tegemeo Institute launched the paper during a forum on ‘Sorghum Farming’ at the University of Nairobi attended by Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation Prof Fred Segor and other key stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
“One such crop that has the potential to eradicate poverty and end severe food insecurity is sorghum. This is because sorghum is tolerant to drought and can survive under a wide range of soils” says the report. “The expanding demand for sorghum beer targeting low income consumers as a cheap and safe alternative to illicit liquors has been a pull factor in the sorghum beer value chain. This has created vast opportunities among value chain actors”
The Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation commended KBL’s efforts towards improving sorghum farming in Kenya and encouraged more public-private partnerships in order to tap into the potential of sorghum as a cash crop and a solution to food insecurity.
“We are happy with the work that KBL is doing towards promoting sorghum farming in the country and creating earning opportunities for thousands of farmers across the country. This a good example of corporates that are contributing to the realization of the Big 4 Agenda; having contracted over 45,000 sorghum farmers across the country,” said Prof Fred Segor.
“With the onset of climate change, the launch of the white paper has come at an opportune time when we are encouraging farmers to grow drought resistant crops such as sorghum. The onus is on us as stakeholders in the agriculture sector to realize the importance of crops such as sorghum in attaining food security and join hands in driving growth in production and utilization,” added Segor.
KBL Managing Director Jane Karuku assured farmers and partners on the company’s commitment to continue promoting white sorghum production in the country.
“We are leading in the drive for sorghum commercialization in Kenya through contractual farming, and are committed to continue providing support and a ready market to our farmers. We also want to encourage further partnerships with the government and within the private sector. Thus the reason the forum discussions were important in driving this agenda and by bringing agriculture experts together,” added Karuku.
Data from the paper shows that there are approximately 40,000 small-scale sorghum farmers with farm sizes ranging from 0.4 to 0.6 Ha (1 to 1.5 acres) in the country. The introduction of sorghum beer in the market has provided an opportunity to improve production and welfare for sorghum farmers.
As part of their sustainability strategy to acquire 100 per cent of raw materials from local sources by 2020, and to meet the high demand for Senator Keg, KBL aims to double the market for sorghum as a cash crop from 20,000 metric tonnes to around 40,000 tonnes in the next five years.