Long rains improve outlook for sorghum farmers, KBL factory

A sorghum farmer attends to his crop at his farm im Muhoroni Kisumu county on May18th 2018. (Collins Oduor, Standard).

The start of long rains across western Kenya has rekindled hopes for some 15,000 farmers contracted to grow sorghum for the Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) keg plant in Kisumu.

Delayed rains had sent fears of possible crop failure and many of the farmers put off planting to wait for the rains.

KBL also risked falling short in the anticipated supply to the keg brewery which uses specific white sorghum varieties as the primary raw material for the low-end beer.

Officials of East African Maltings Limited (EAML), a supply chain subsidiary of East African Breweries Limited said farmers who postponed planting now have up to mid next month to do so.

EAML General Manager Lawrence Maina said the rains pounding the region were sufficient for the crop to germinate and shoot, beyond which period “the hardy crop will need minimal rain.”

“Sorghum is a short-rain crop given its maturity period of just over three months.

"These conditions of varying moisture are favourable enough for the crop to post a very good yield even if rains become erratic at the end of May,” he said.

With deep-digging tap roots, the crop, unlike maize, is more resilient in the face of unpredictable rains, he explained.

Mr Maina said the company expected a shortfall. “We expect some of those we contracted to plant lower (acreage) than what was promised and others may not plant at all.

"We have witnessed a 20 per cent impact on the March planting plans but it is too early to say what the net effect will be,” he said.

Farmers, he said, had been encouraged to take advantage of the current rains to plant.

“We have seeds available and farmers are reaching out. We will assess by mid-May to see how well we are doing.”

Maina said the 14 regions in Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori and Busia selected for the crop had the potential to deliver the expected output even with little rain.

In Mbwajumwali, Faza, Tchundwa areas, locals have been attacked and killed for giving information to police and administrators about local gangs.

Amina was a well know peer educator, who had been trained by the Harm Reduction Project, she was also a peace ambassador.