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Government promises Kenyans Sh75 maize flour

Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa (centre) congratulates newly appointed National Irrigation Board Chairman Emanuel Ichor when he took over office at the board’s headquarters in Nairobi. With them is the newly appointed Principal Secretary to the ministry Zeinab Hussein. [Pius Cheruiyot, Standard]

NAIROBI: The Government is taking a long-term view to arrest the spiraling prices of maize flour with the promise of a cheaper alternative from its Galana-Kulalu food security project.

Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said Tuesday the project’s experts have already done the costing that is likely to wrestle the market share from private millers with a 2kg packet tipped to cost Sh75. “The price of unga in all outlets is at its highest now. We believe we can put a 2kg packet of unga on the shelves at Sh75. This is half what millers are offering,” said Mr Wamalwa in Nairobi.

However, the CS said the plan is still at a consultative level and may not, therefore, offer an immediate relief to Kenyans, with a 2kg packet of maize flour, used to make the country’s staple food, ugali currently retailing at Sh153, being an all-time high.

“This is still work in progress. Let me not give false hopes that it will be in the shelves tomorrow. A lot more needs to be done,” said Wamalwa while displaying a sample packet of floor labelled “Galana Maize Meal.” According to a pricing breakdown seen by The Standard, in one hour, the miller at Galana project can do 400kg of maize to produce 334kg of maize flour.

This will require 32.2 litres of fuel. A 2kg packet will, therefore, consume fuel averaging Sh14.66. The breakdown further shows that a 90kg bag maize would require Sh54.34 as production cost.

“The national average for production cost is between Sh1,800 and Sh2,000 per 90kg, but we can deliver it at Sh1,000. We have done the costing and it is doable,” said National Irrigation Board (NIB) acting General Manager Gitonga Mugambi.

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For the over four million starving Kenyans, this would not offer much relief. They will continue to rely on food relief as well as hope that the recent move by Treasury to give a four-month duty-free import window for maize will lead to lower prices.

Last February, NIB reported that the third harvest delivered 103,000 bags of maize, being an average of 31 bags per acre. This means that unless the acreage under maize is significantly scaled up, the government may not have enough floor to hit millers.

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