Farmers who took a leap of faith and defied poor rain forecasts to plant sorghum in Nyanza and Busia will produce up to 8,000 tonnes of the grain, according to estimates.
Nearly 15,000 farmers contracted by East African Maltings Limited, a subsidiary of the East African Breweries Limited (EABL) went against the weatherman’s warnings that the 30-day delay in March rains could affect crop production.
The farmers plant specific varieties of white sorghum used in the production of the company’s low-end beer, Senator Keg, at a new factory in Kisumu.
EABL projects that the farmers will take to its stores between 6,500 tonnes and 8,000 of threshed grain, about 2,000 tonnes below targets set at the end of last year.
EABL Western Kenya Regional Agribusiness Manager Eliud Kiptoo said the resilience of the farmers who took the risk was going to pay off by end of July when those who waited on the beginning of proper rains will be harvesting.
“From our assessment of all the farms in the Nyanza and Busia there is promise for up to 8000 tonnes in yields. This is very promising given the challenges the farmers faced, especially the delays in start of the long rains,” he said.
Members of a women group in Matayos, Busia County, are among farmers eyeing good returns after dumping maize and sugarcane to embrace contract farming.
“Many of us attended sensitisation seminars on the crop but only nine took up the opportunity last year. The returns were impressive, I earned Sh65,000 after cultivating three-and-a-half acres of sorghum,” she said.
These returns, she said, saw farmers in the group recruited and trained on how to plant sorghum.
Some have gone large scale with the crop such as Mr George Okinda, a former barley farmer who has put 16 acres under sorghum.
Mr Okinda said he was ditching sugarcane because woes facing the sugar industry had left them staring at losses due to late payments.
Siaya and Busia registered 2,867 new sorghum farmers, according to grain aggregating agency Western Dry Foods Limited.