KENYA – A consortium of private firms from Japan have rolled out an initiative to equip and fund Kenyan small scale processors to add value to sorghum in efforts to boost uptake of the traditional food crop.

The initiative aims at boosting food security, creating jobs in the traditional food crops value chain and increasing income for farmers, reports KBC.

The initiative targets farmers in Embu, Meru, Kitui and Migori Counties who will be paid on delivery to the processors.

Though highly nutritious and readily available, most traditional food crops such as millet and sorghum are less consumed especially in urban areas.

The small-scale processors will purchase and blend it with other foods during processing to encourage consumption.

Among products being explored to have a mixture of sorghum and other ingredients are pastries like cakes.

In the recent past Sorghum production has been a flourishing enterprise in Kenya with the introduction of sorghum beer in the market.

Prior to this, sorghum production had been declining due to a shrinking production area which had a ripple effect on yields.

However, the crop’s production is now at an all-time high, thanks to sorghum beer production which has led to increased utilization of sorghum for industrial purposes by brewers such as the Kenya Breweries Limited.

This shift provides a market opportunity to absorb large volumes of this produce at competitive prices because many of them have been contracted to supply sorghum for beer production through an interlinked markets system.

In 2017, Kenya Breweries Limited broke ground for the construction and refurbishment of the Sh15 billion (US$15 million) Kisumu plant which produces KBL’s low end beer – the Senator Keg made from sorghum.

This led to the brewer partnering with up to 25,000 sorghum farmers in western Kenya region to enhance improved sorghum yields as a long-term sustainability programme of its Kisumu plant.

According to the beer making company, the upcoming plant has a capacity of producing nearly 1 million hectolitres (100 million litres) of Keg beer per year.

According to the company’s Head of Sustainability and Engagement, Jean Kiarie, the initiative is part of efforts to keep the pledge of locally sourcing of sorghum as the main raw material in the production of the firm’s flagship low-end beer.

Kenya Breweries limited also seeks to commercialize the crop by raising the production from the current 400kg per acre to 1.5 tonnes in the next season.

The markets are aimed at encouraging sorghum producers to increase their yields and profit margins by over 500% and 200% respectively. This provides an opportunity to turn around the way sorghum is perceived and grown by small holder farmers reports Tegemeo Institute Of Agricultural Policy And Development.