The government-owned cheaper maize flour of Sh75 a packet will only last for two days, dimming efforts to curb the current runaway price that has seen the cost of a 2kg packet hit Sh153.
Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa says the flour will be released to Coastal Kenya today (Thursday) as it has already been milled and stored at the Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme.
This is the first batch of maize to be milled at the one million-acre Galana-Kulalu food security project, which is touted to end the perennial food problem in the country.
“This is work in progress, the stocks may not be enough to create an impact now, but we are putting strategies in place to ensure that we expand the scheme to produce more and eventually lower the price of flour in future,” said Mr Wamalwa. It is estimated that Kenyans consume about three million bags monthly, translating to about 100,000 bags daily. Galana has harvested 165,000 bags so far.
The cost of production of a two kilogramme packet of the Unga Galana, basing on the figures issued by National Irrigation Board (NIB), is Sh74 and the agency says that it is not selling it for profit.
The breakdown on production indicates that the cost of producing two kilogrammes of maize is the most expensive component in processing of flour as it costs Sh54. This is followed by the cost of fuel at Sh14.
Maize forms 80 per cent of the total cost involved in milling of flour, according to Cereal Millers Association and the price of flour is determined by the cost of maize.
Statistics from NIB indicate that producing a 90kg bag of maize in Galana costs Sh1,000. Tegemeo Institute, a research wing of Egerton University puts the cost of producing the same quantity by farmers at Sh1,800.
Of the 10,000-acre model farm that NIB is implementing at the moment, only 4,250 acres have been put under the crop.
Mr Wamalwa says the model farm will be completed in the next six months following importation of the required water pumps from Israel.
The government will then invite the private sector to lease land and plant crops in the second phase that will cover 200,000 acres before opening up the entire one million acres.
The milling plant that NIB is using at the moment is smaller and has a capacity of four tonnes per hour. The plans to acquire a larger mill was quashed last year after the budget was reduced from Sh14 billion to Sh7 billion.
Mr Mwangi Thuita, chief engineer, planning and design, at NIB says they are using the mill as a case study to showcase the potential of Galana in impacting on the cost of flour in the country.
“We shall request for additional funding to acquire a mill with larger capacity of 280 tonnes per day and we are using this smaller one in operation as a case study,” said Mr Thuita.
The project has been marred with controversies since its inception, causing delays on the timelines. For instance, the model farm was supposed to be completed by March this year, but it has been delayed to September.