NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 17 – President Mwai Kibaki has appealed to distillers and brewers to develop products targeting low income earners in the country.
President Kibaki said on Wednesday that the country had seen a surge in the number of people consuming illicit brews mainly because of high beer prices out of reach for most of them.
“To avoid this problem, the brewing industry should develop low priced beers made under hygienic conditions for the budget-conscious consumers as a substitute to illicit brews,” President Kibaki said.
Despite stringent regulations on the production and consumption of illicit brews, it still constitutes up to 45 percent of the total alcohol consumed locally.
Consumption of contraband brews has been particularly high in the rural areas where the level of income remains low. The practice has also caught on in a number of slums in most urban centres.
President Kibaki regretted the continued use of un-standardised alcoholic products saying it had robbed the country of its much needed workforce.
The problem for brewers and distillers however has been the high taxation placed on the manufacture of alcohol, forcing many to peg the price for their products high and driving away the low end consumer.
The Treasury however announced a tax reprieve in January that saw major players adjust prices downwards.
President Kibaki was speaking during the commissioning of East African Breweries Limited’s new Brew House and Bottling line at its Ruaraka complex.
The Sh2.8 billion investment brings to four the total number of bottling lines at EABL.
According to EABL Group Managing Director Seni Adetu the new line will be able to churn out 80,000 bottles per hour translating into an annual production of 2.1 million hectorlitres.
He said this would help EABL respond effectively to rising consumer demand for its products.
EABL is also set to construct a second keg line for its popular Senator Keg product, to help ease congestion on its current line. Senator Keg has proved popular with low-end beer market and currently outstrips EABL’s flagship brand Tusker in terms of volumes.
In an effort of further enhancing the company’s efficiency Mr Adetu said EABL would soon be working with the Ministry of Agriculture to engage farmers in semi arid areas in planting of sorghum for use in beer production.
“We have recruited over 3,000 farmers staring in Eastern Province and expanding to the rest of the country as the year goes by,” Mr Adetu said.
This development is expected to ease its annual barley demand and substituting it partially with local sorghum.
EABL currently requires more than 60,000 tonnes of barley every year.