Sorghum farmers in Tharaka-Nithi are set to pocket better earnings following an agreement between the county government and East Africa Breweries Limited (EABL) that will cut off middlemen.
Under the trade deal, EABL will buy sorghum, used in making Senator Keg beer, directly from farmers, eliminating the exploitative brokers who offer poor prices.
Tharaka-Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki said farmers will be required to deliver their produce to the nearest county cereals stores where EABL aggregators will be buying from.
He said the partnership will also see farmers benefit from extension services that will improve quantity and quality of the sorghum.
“The partnership is a game-changer for sorghum farmers in the county,” said Mr Njuki.
EABL head of Emerging Business Joel Kamau said out of 47,000 farmers who sell sorghum direct to the brewer, 17,000 come from Tharaka-Nithi County which is also the second-biggest producer in the country behind Meru County.
“Tharaka-Nithi County produces 858,000 tonnes of sorghum annually making it the second-biggest producer in the entire country,” said Mr Kamau.
He said EABL gives quality seeds to the farmers for planting and then buys through their recommended aggregators who sometimes conspire to reduce prices hurting the farmer.
Governor Njuki appealed to the company to consider setting up a Keg factory in the county promising to offer free land and other incentives to reduce cost of transporting the sorghum which will further cut prices.
Mr Njuki who is also the Council of Governors (CoG) Agriculture Committee Chairperson, asked the national government to shelve plans to increase tax levied on beer made from cereals such as Senator Keg, arguing that it will deal a big blow to farmers.
He said increase on the tax will lead to rise in beer price, result in decreased consumption and subsequently compel manufacturers to cut production and scale down quantities of the raw materials.
He said at least 21 counties including Tharaka-Nithi, Meru, Kisumu, Narok, Machakos, Bungoma and Vihiga grow sorghum in large quantiles ,mainly for commercial purposes and interfering with the business will definitely kill their business.
“The CoG maintains that government should stop amending the Excise Duty (Remission of Excise Duty) Regulations 2017, that proposes introduction of Excise Duty (Remission of Duty) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 under which tax levied on beer made from cereals would definitely rise,” said Mr Njuki.
He added that such a move will also be a blow to the government since low income consumers will turn to dangerous illicit brew leading to deaths and other crimes.