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State banks on sorghum farming to transform lives

More jobs are expected to be created in the food processing business, thanks to an initiative by the government, agriculture and health value chain players to enhance maize flour blending.

A research paper on sorghum production in Kenya indicates that the country requires an additional 448,907 tonnes to meet the demand for the blending of maize flour.

Irrigation Principal Secretary Fred Segor said while launching the paper that use of sorghum and other traditional foods would help in taming high level of malnutrition cases.

“One of the critical policy objectives proposed to strengthen investment in sorghum is blending of maize flour with sorghum, millet and cassava to contribute to the achievement of food and nutrition security under the Big Four plan,”  he said yesterday.

The research was conducted by Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development and was sponsored by Kenya Breweries Ltd (KBL).

“Through this initiative, we expect to progressively increase the volumes of blended maize flour sold in the country to five per cent in 2018/19 financial year, 10 per cent in 2019/20, 15 per cent in 2020/21 and 20 per cent in 2021/22 financial year,” the PS said.

Segor made the remarks while delivering a speech on behalf of Agriculture and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri during the launch of the research paper in Nairobi.

Using sorghum to blend maize flour, Segor said would reduce the pressure on maize, create employment and establish several small and medium enterprises.

Only 15 per cent of sorghum farmers in Kenya is using improved seeds despite the market demand for quality produce. While the majority use seeds saved from previous harvests.

Growing demand

Sorghum production has been stagnant over the years at an average of 125,000 tonnes to 240,000 tonnes per annum despite the growing demand. At the same time, the area under sorghum production has been fluctuating over the last five years at between 180,000 hectares and 200,000 hectares. Jane Karuku, KBL managing director said Kenya compared to her neighbours lags behind in sorghum production.

“KBL’s entry into the sorghum market for keg beer production holds the potential to raise farmers’ profitability by up to 220 per cent and contribute to addressing food insecurity. We are not only providing a ready market with our forward contracts with over 45,000 farmers but also playing a catalytic role to inject growth and recognition of the sorghum crops,” she said.

“The introduction of Senate Keg beer provided a pull factor for sorghum to claim its space as a cash crop,” Karuku added.

Significant growth

Over the past decade, Ethiopia has recorded the most significant growth in sorghum production as compared to most countries in southern and south-east Asia.

Segor said the ministry has been promoting the crop by enhancing access and availability of seeds for increased production of early maturing and drought-tolerant varieties by farmers through the Kenya cereal enhancement programme.

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