Thousands of sorghum farmers in Tharaka want compensation for losses incurred last year after a local brewer cancelled contracts following a government move to tax sorghum-based beer.
The farmers have demanded a written agreement from companies buying Gadam sorghum in the region to assure them of compensation from losses and reliable market for their product.
Tharaka-Nithi County government Chief Executive Trade, Industry and Cooperative Development Tabitha Mbungu said that the farmers will only continue growing the crop after clear engagement terms are entered into.
“We don’t want agreement between the buyers and politicians in the board room. It should be in an open field with all farmers,” said Ms Mbungu speaking at Mukothima Primary School in Tharaka North during a sorghum farming drive.
More than 30, 000 small scale farmers were left without a market for their produce after the product sales dropped by 75 per cent compelling them to sell to brokers.
The sorghum farmers incurred big losses after the East Africa Breweries (EABL) cancelled its contract with them following a move by the government to impose a 50 per cent excise duty on sorghum-based beer.
EABL marketing manager Gerald Giceru has assured the farmers that there will be a lasting market and the two parties will enjoy mutual benefits.
“The 50 per cent excise duty imposed by the government was scrapped and we are assured of stable business now,” said Mr Giceru.
The beer maker has promised to buy the surplus produce in large quantities.
The county executive Ms Mbungu asked EABL to work directly with farmers rather than deal with politicians and demanded a written agreement as a basis for sharing losses in case of unfavourable market conditions.
Tharaka Nithi Woman representative Beatrice Nkatha said that the government will work closely with the buyers to ensure that farmers benefit from the crop.
Mukothima Ward member of county assembly Mwenda Gataya asked the company to sensitise farmers on how to grow the crop to avoid post-harvest loses.
“Last year the buyers destroyed a lot of sorghum claiming that it was not dry. This also left many farmers with losses,” said Mr Mwenda.
By ALEX NJERU