The brewing of low-end beer at a plant in Kisumu could register a steaming start following a Government pledge to support production of sorghum, its main raw material.
The brewery owned by Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) is undergoing final systems and quality test runs ahead of opening in the coming weeks. It will take up over 15,000 tonnes of sorghum to produce up to one million litres of Senator Keg.
In its quest to meet the high demand, the firm has over the past two years recruited 17,000 farmers in Nyanza and Western regions but was still faced with a deficit.
Many of the farmers are smallholders with between one and three acres of land, cultivated using traditional methods.
The Ministry of Trade and Industrialisation has, however, announced plans to support commercialisation of the crop as part of efforts to push up industries, mitigate food insecurity, create jobs and fight illicit brews.
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Speaking when he toured the Sh15 billion keg brewery last week, Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said the Government would sensitise more farmers to take up the venture as an agribusiness.
State agencies, he added, would provide the necessary support to realise the pledge.
“We want to identify specific value chains whose commercialisation we will support to drive the industrialisation agenda. Special cereals such as sorghum, which is an industrial crop, are among those we are committing to support and we want to now move towards turning them into agribusiness ventures,” said Mr Munya.
The plan is expected to net an additional 30,000 farmers across the country by 2022. It is also expected to see the amalgamation of adjacent small farms to form blocks so as to make commercial scale management easier.
Following the ban on second generation liquor in 2015, the Government has kept a bag of generous incentives ready for dishing to investors who offer alternatives while growing value in the country’s Vision 2030 and Big Four agenda.
Munya said KBL, having secured excise tax exemption of 80 per cent for locally sourcing the sorghum, was expected to help contribute significantly in lowering consumption of illicit brews from the current 50 per of all alcoholic beverages to 20 per cent in the first five years.
“To meet high demand for Senator Keg, we aim at doubling the market for sorghum as a cash crop from 20,000 metric tonnes to around 40,000 tonnes in the next five years,” said KBL Managing Director Jane Karuku.
About 14,000 farmers were contracted in western Kenya in the first year of sorghum production and 3,000 have come on board ahead of the March planting season, according to KBL.
Busia County is recruiting 5,000 farmers. County Agriculture Executive Moses Osiya said plans were underway to aggregate 10,200 hectares of land for sorghum, with potential of producing 2,000 of kilogrammes per hectare.
At least 3,000 keg retail outlets have been opened and the number is expected to rise by the time the brewery is opened.
Ms Karuku said the project, which began in July 2017, was on the homestretch and in line with a 24-month plan.
Munya lauded the project as “a catalyst” for economic development and growth for Kisumu and neighbouring counties.
“We are confident this brewery will bring multiplier effects such as creating employment opportunities, raising rural incomes, increase food security, boost exports and ultimately grow our economy,” he said.