An acute shortage of maize in western region has forced the only maize milling plant to operate below capacity.
The Sh120 million Western Deluxe Maize factory in Busia County, which produces Halisi as the main brand, has a capacity to crush 800 bags of maize per day if there is enough stock.
However, scarcity of maize has ensured that the miller only crushes 400 bags.
“Our major challenge is lack of maize. We are staring at a situation where we may be forced to close until maize stock is obtained,” said the miller’s accountant Emanuel Mwaro.
The multi-million factory, which was launched last year in April by County boss Sospeter Ojaamong, has a large store which can accommodate up to five million bags but the capacity has never exceeded 50,000 bags.
Mr Mwaro appealed to farmers who have maize to deliver to the firm at a cost of Sh3,600 per 90kg bag.
The scarcity of and subsequent rise in maize prices is attributed to the prolonged dry spell, use of inappropriate fertiliser and poor farming techniques.
Agricultural experts have pointed out that Funyula and Budalangi in Busia and Likuyani in Kakamega counties are some of the places where the crop was completely destroyed.
The director of Rural Information on Agriculture and Development Centre Simon Wesechere said Kakamega’a production alone fell by over 50 per cent adding that the second crop, usually planted during short rains, also failed.
Mr Wesechere said poorly spread rains last season made it difficult for maize to flower uniformly, causing delay in formation of cobs.
“Unscrupulous businessmen also usually take advantage of planting seasons to sell fake seeds causing crop failure,” he said, adding that the region produces two million bags of maize annually against a demand of four million bags.
Due to high demand, most traders are sourcing for the commodity in far-flung areas including in neighbouring Uganda.
The miller currently sells its products to Busia, Nyamira, Kisumu, Kakamega and Trans Nzoia counties, adding that they will extend it to other counties once they start receiving constant supplies of maize.