Nigerian brewers dump barley for sorghum in hunt for local substitute
Cultivation of sorghum, an important cereal crop, is fast booming in the Nigerian market as brewers in the country are now using a larger percentage of the crop in place of barley for brewing beer and malt drinks.
Brewers are also making huge investments in sorghum malting plants in the country owing to their hunt for local substitutes in place of barley malt and barley concentrates.
As a result, billions of dollars that would have been spent on importation of barley malt and concentrates will be retained in the economy and help propel growth and development, even as it will drive down input costs for brewery firms.
“A lot of farmers are now going into sorghum farming because the brewery industry is buying more from us now than before,” Adamu Bature, secretary, Sorghum, Millet Farmers Association of Nigeria, told BusinessDay in a telephone response to questions.
“Brewers make use of 70 percent sorghum as by-product for brewing beer and malt. Nigeria Breweries fayrouz brand is 100 percent sorghum. This shows the huge industrial potentials of the crop. Also, it serves as raw material for biscuit and noodles production,” Bature said.
He noted that the crop is grown in all the northern states in the country including Kogi and Kwara States.
Nigeria is the natural habitat for many varieties of sorghum and the world’s second largest producer and supplier of the crop, churning out 11 million metric tons per annum while demand is put at 12.5 million MT, leaving a gap of 1.5 million MT, according to data obtained from the Federal Ministry Agriculture.
“Nigeria Breweries funded a sorghum research at the institute and we developed a sorghum variety with high malting properties which can be used in place of barley as by-product for brewing beer and malt. So most brewers are increasing their local sourcing for sorghum,” said Ibrahim Umar Abubakar, director, Institute for Agricultural Research, IAR Zaria.
According to the institute, two varieties of sorghum with malting properties have been released.
“The CSR03H and CSR04H are the two varieties we developed with high malting properties and have been released officially,” said Daniel Aba a sorghum breeder at the Institute for Agricultural Research, Zaria.
Sorghum is a grass of east African origin. It is the 4th most important cereal after wheat, rice and maize and is used as a maize substitute for livestock feeds because of their similar nutritional values.
“The stalk from sorghum can be used as livestock feeds while the grains are used for poultry feeds production. It has high protein content than maize,” said Aba.
Like shea nuts, sorghum has the potential to be a huge export earner for the country, but years of low investment, lack of government support and natural vagaries has limited the huge potentials.
Inability of Africa’s biggest economy to sustain and improve its production of sorghum over the years has resulted to an average yield of 0.500 ton per hectare when other leading countries produce between 4.5 to 6 tons per hectare of improved variety.
Olayinka Edmond, corporate communication manager, Guinness Nigeria in an email response to questions, said Guinness has increased its local sourcing to 70 percent within the last two years and that sorghum constitutes the bulk of it.
“Despite the price of the crop increasing significantly we are still increasing our demand for sorghum,” Edmond said.
Liman Mohammed, a sorghum farmer in Borno, said “I have three brewery firms I sell to immediately after harvest. The demand is getting higher since the dollar volatility as most of them want to source locally and now using sorghum in place of barley.”
“Currently a metric ton of sorghum sells for N170, 000 as against N130, 000 sold four months ago. The price keeps rising owing to the increase in demand,” Mohammed said.
Currently, most of the brewery firms in the country are supplying free inputs such as improved seed varieties to farmers and also giving them technical support in the production of the crop.
“The company has made progress in increasing the supply of sorghum used for some of its beverages as more than 100, 000 tons of the cereal were purchased during the year,” said Patrick Olowokere, manager, corporate communications and brand public relations, in a note made available to BusinessDay.
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