Keroche Breweries pleads with Uhuru for help

Keroche Breweries pleads with Uhuru for help

By Tabitha Karanja

We wish to start by commending the Jubilee Government for the commendable work done during its two terms.

This is evident from the peace the country has enjoyed and the big-ticket projects completed on the infrastructure front not forgetting the growth of the economy from a low of 3% to about 6%.

However, mid-stream the second term of the government, an unprecedented global pandemic in the name of Covid 19 hit the whole world.

To be precise, the first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed in Kenya in March 2020.

The effects of the pandemic were not only on loss of lives but serious erosion of the business environment leading to closure of businesses, loss of employment and the attendant income among other effects.

The government put some temporary measures in an attempt to mitigate the effects of Covid-19.

Some of the measures included reduction in standard VAT rate from 16% to 14%, Corporate tax rate from 30% to 25% and pushing up the minimum taxable threshold for individuals for PAYE purposes. Though the gesture was appreciated, it did not reduce the pain caused by the pandemic to the expected level.

The above measures were withdrawn in 2021 when the pandemic was still on the increase.

As we got into 2022, the cases of Covid-19 started going down but the post Covid-19 effects are being felt harder.

The effects are being aggravated by the current political climate as we get closer to the August 2022 General Election.

The government should re-evaluate the post Covid effects and the impact they have on the different sectors of the economy in order to formulate policy measures that will rejuvenate the players and by extension the economy.

Without re-inventing the wheel, the government can borrow a leaf from the west where businesses have been extended grants, tax breaks, moratoriums and low interest loans.

 Reality of Covid-19 pandemic impact; case in Point-Keroche Breweries Ltd:

While the above summary sounds abstract, the economic effects have severely affected most local enterprises since they have not been fully cushioned by the government policies through its agents whom in as much are exercising their mandates should do so with consideration of the realities on the ground. We strongly believe our struggles mirrors the sentiments and struggles of many other local businesses that are suffering in silence without an avenue or platform to air their grievances unlike multinationals cushioned by their parent companies/ countries.

Keroche Breweries appreciates the support accorded by the government through its agent the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), who are mandated to implement the tax policies and collect taxes on behalf of the government.

However, we wish to highlight the run offs with KRA leading to closures of the company’s factory at Naivasha.

The ground for closure was due to outstanding tax arrears of Kshs.322 million that accrued from February 2021.

Failure to be up to date on the payments was explained to KRA as low business leading to poor cash-flows that could not fully meet all the cash obligations of the company (taxes, utilities, salaries, suppliers, etc).

We subsequently entered into a proposed payment plan with KRA but we could not manage to honour the same due to frequent interruptions by KRA:

1)             On 7th December 2021 KRA closed the factory and further issued agency notices to 36 Banks in Kenya. This completely collapsed all our business operations since we could neither produce, sell nor access any financing from any of the banks to assist in settling the arrears. We started negotiating for a payment plan and we requested for a 24 monthly instalments based on our financial projections which KRA rejected and insisted on six monthly instalments .We proceeded with their proposal although we knew it was unrealistic since we wanted to have our plant re-opened and we were desperate to take our products in the market during the festive season.

 2) On 22nd December 2021 KRA re-opened, but unfortunately, the earliest our products could reach the market was on 27th December 2021.We only managed to sell for three days till the end of the year but KRA were on our case demanding for the arrears according to the payment plan. We remitted Kshs. 10 Million which was available in our accounts then; which to them was insufficient.

 3) On 10th January 2022 KRA again shut down the factory and we re- negotiated the payment plan (24-installment) which they still rejected.

 4) On 15th January 2022, after another round of back and forth discussions, KRA re-opened the plant. For us to go into production we needed revenue stamps which we had to apply and it took a further one week to get approval and issuance from KRA. We therefore started production on 22nd January 2022 and even before these products reached our markets KRA struck again.

 5) On 31st January 2022, KRA closed the plant once again. In such circumstances of operating less than a week, it was impossible for us to raise the amount of money KRA were demanding. We managed to make a further payment of Kshs. 2.5 Million within the short period we were in operation. At this point they refused to accept further negotiations and the office of the Commissioner-Domestic Taxes Department, advised us that their hands were tied and we should seek support from the office of the Commissioner General.

Since then we have been trying to reach and even going to his office but we have been unable to reach him for his intervention. From 1st February 2022 to date, we have remained closed and yet we have over 2Million litres of beer worth about Kshs 512 Million in our tanks which have fixed costs to a tune of about Kshs 30 Million required to maintain the same monthly.

This has drained all our resources and unfortunately if nothing is done in the next seven days, we will be forced to drain down all the beer and lay down over 250 direct employees and thousands within our nationwide distribution network.

The recent closures of the factory by KRA have created a lot of uncertainty on the company’s operations and future plans which if not addressed are likely to result to:

i) Loss of 2 million Litres of beer in the tanks under fermentation worth Kshs.512 Million.

ii) Loss of 250 direct jobs originating from all over Kenya whose livelihoods depend on the existence of the company.

iii) Loss of income to thousands of Kenyans who are indirectly involved in the distribution network.

iv) Erosion of the Investors confidence both Local and Foreign

v) Killing of our local industries leaving the Multinationals to monopolize our economy (killing of the goose that lays the golden egg).

 It is important to recognize the contribution the company has made to the Kenyan economy from the time of its inception;

i) Creation of direct and indirect jobs.

ii) Breaking of the monopoly by Multinationals in the Alcoholic beverages sector and spearheading the eradication of unhygienic drinks which are a health hazard to Kenyans.

iii) Contribution of over Kshs.30 Billion in taxes to the Exchequer.

iv) Putting the Nakuru County and by extension Kenya on the Global map due to the latest 21st Century brewing technology.

 Our Humble Appeal to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya, our beloved mother land:

In view of the above state of affairs, Keroche breweries seeks your indulgence as follows;

1) Assurance of a certain operating environment free from any harassment through closure on premise of issues that can be amicably handled administratively.

2) To kindly but urgently request the re-opening of our plant to prevent huge losses as described above and enable us resume production, sales and distribution and most importantly protect and safeguard the livelihoods of thousands of Kenyans employed by the company both directly and indirectly.

3) Request KRA to give the company 12 months grace period on the taxes in arrears. However, the company will continue paying the current taxes as they fall due.This indulgence will enable the company to recover from its current financial woes, be able to settle all its outstanding liabilities and to have a new lease of life.

And to our Parliament:

We beseech you formulate laws that extensively protect and cushion local enterprises such as mandating the CS Treasury and Planning to give waivers or moratoriums especially during such difficult times brought about by a global pandemic.

 Win-win Scenario

A positive consideration of this appeal will be a win for both the company and KRA and by extension the government.

Tabitha Karanja (pictured) is the Keroche Breweries Chief Executive.

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