Report: Lack of certified seeds hampers sorghum growing

Wednesday March 18 2020

Sorghum farmers harvesting the crop in Baringo County. Many farmers lack certified seeds to boost production. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Lack of certified seeds varieties is a major challenge to sorghum production in Kenya, a report has revealed.

Sorghum is a staple food in many Kenyan homes. It is also a key raw material in the brewing of beer by Kenya Breweries.

The latest report by Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development has revealed that Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) accounts for 46 per cent of improved sorghum varieties released into the Kenya market.


A report by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service says local researchers had developed a total of 39 varieties by 2017.

Kalro released 18 varieties while ICRSAT had released eight, Rongo University had developed four, while Agri Seed Co limited, Egerton University had developed three verities. Kenya Seed Company had two while Leldet had one variety. Many farmers also have difficulties in accessing fertilisers.

“There are also liquidity awareness and distribution constraints,” added the report.

To overcome these challenges, the report recommends contract farming, an interlinked system that is gaining traction for commercial sorghum production.


Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) has embarked on a partnership with local academic and research institutions to contract farmers in a bid to supply high quality seeds for industrial sorghum production. Sorghum processing is in two fold mainly for milling and malting.

“For milling, processors will mill sorghum for food products with the bye-products being used for as animal feed,” said the report.

The recent entry of sorghum malting has expanded the opportunity for processing of the crop in Kenya.

For instance, KBL, has an estimated capacity of 60,000 metric tonnes per annum.

Following the growth of the sorghum beer market, KBL is developing a second processing plant in Kisumu with a view to increasing the volumes from farmers.


KBL says the opening of commercial sorghum production has created an opportunity to produce more for the expanding beer market.

“The emergence of sorghum beer and the projected beer consumption has expanded the sorghum market,” said the report.

The report states that models such as contract farming guarantees the sale price and provides farmers with the incentive to reduce their cost of production.

Private companies in Kenya have a market for sorghum production of syrup, bio-ethanol and animal feeds. Haphazard market strategies are derailing sorghum production.

 “The market remains largely unorganised and characterised by inconsistent quality of products, inadequate marketing resources and strategies, lack of competitiveness and inability of market participants to exploit economies of scale,” added the report.