The East African Breweries (EABL) has incurred a loss of at least Sh.8 million following a poor sorghum harvest at the Hola Irrigation Scheme in Tana River County.
The brewer invested Sh.25 million on contract farming in which farmers were expected to produce 1,500 tonnes of sorghum worth Sh.50 million, but the farmers harvested only 500 tonnes worth Sh.16.8 million, Sh.13.2 million less than the targeted output and Sh.8.2 million less than the amount invested.
The Scheme Manager, Josiah Gathuni told reporters in his office on Saturday that the project suffered numerous challenges that led to the dismal harvest among them strong religious beliefs against alcohol consumption, the invasion by fall armyworms and quelea birds.
He also blamed farmers for the poor harvest, noting that the farmers neglected their fields claiming they had not been fully involved at the beginning of the project.
The Manager explained that the farmers wanted to be involved in land preparation and weeding, but the beer maker decided to employ the use of machinery to the chagrin of the farmers who expected to be paid for labour.
EABL only assigned the farmers the responsibility of chasing away birds, but when the farmers realized the crop was to be used to make beer, they abandoned the fields as their religious faith was against alcohol consumption, he said.
Gathuni said the invasion by army worms and quelea birds destroyed more than half the expected harvest due to the negligence by the farmers.
The birds moved in a mass of hundreds of thousands and attacked the farm every dawn and by the time EABL applied the required pesticide, a lot of destruction had been done to the crop, he said.
The Manager said EABL had decided to carry out a similar project this season in which they will support the farmers to utilize one acre each for sorghum and two acres for maize.
In the past, farmers within the scheme have been accused of violating contractual agreements with the National Irrigation Board (NIB), lenders and sponsors, leading to massive losses.
The farmers have been accused of selling farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, which are sold to them at subsidized prices, hence affecting yields.
They have also been accused of selling their produce in the black market instead of doing so through NIB, which usually sells the produce for them and deduct debts owed to creditors.
Source: Kenya News Agency