Farmers protest tax on sorghum, millet, cassava


Sorghum farmers have been contracted by Kenya Breweries Limited. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Thousands of farmers in semi-arid areas of Tharaka-Nithi and Meru counties have protested planned reduction of excise duty on sorghum, millet and cassava saying it will seriously affect their livelihoods.

The farmers particularly rely on sorghum they are contracted to grow by Kenya Breweries Limited for manufacture of Senator Keg beer, an alcoholic drink for low income earners.

Treasury has proposed to cut excise duty remission on millet, sorghum and cassava from 80 percent currently to 60 percent. It has published the rules and is seeking comments from the public before the law is enacted.

But according to KBL, the new regulation means the price of Keg beer will rise by Sh10 per 300ml cup which is expected to reduce consumption. This will force the beer maker to cut production and scale down quantities of sorghum it buys from farmers.

In Tharaka-Nithi and parts of Meru County, there are over 30,000 farmers contracted to grow sorghum by KBL which buys it at Sh32 a kilo, providing ready market for their produce.

On Wednesday, farmers in Tharaka-Nithi held a consultative forum at Mukothima and resolved that introduction of the duty would impact negatively on their incomes.

Beatrice Nkatha, their coordinator, Thursday said the government should consider the plight of the vulnerable farmers in the semi-arid areas and shelve the planned tax.

“We cannot understand why the government wants to destabilise a crop that is relied upon by the vulnerable people in the society. We have sent our memorandum to the government with proposal that this tax should be shelved because it will lead to collapse of the value chain,” Ms Nkatha said in a phone interview.

In Meru, farmers were expected to hold a forum Thursday with Simon Kaburu Anjuri, their coordinator.

Mr Anjuri said farmers were shocked that the measures were being introduced at a time they had embraced the crop after years of teething problems associated with streamlining of the value chain.