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Investors target harvest with mobile maize dryers

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Drying maize: Poor drying  methods have  been cited as a major cause of Aflatoxin contamination in the country. File

Drying maize: Poor drying methods have been cited as a major cause of Aflatoxin contamination in the country. File 

By ELIZABETH WANJIRU

Posted  Tuesday, August 2   2011 at  00:00

Entrepreneurs are positioning themselves for a piece of the grain drying business fuelled by farmers’ growing demand for modern technology as they race to tame heavy losses occasioned by grain contamination.

Lesiolo Grain Handlers Limited (LGHL), which exhibited its mobile drier at the ninth edition of the annual agribusiness fair by the Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC), is the latest to join other players eyeing this window.

Poor drying due to overreliance on heat from the sun has been cited as a major cause of Aflatoxin contamination in the country, which is estimated to claim up to 30 per cent of harvests every season.

“This is a new technology which has been introduced to help farmers avoid issues related to food poisoning as a result of improper moisture extraction from grains,” said LGHL market linkages team leader Michael Kimani.

He said that their machine, which uses a mortar, is three months old in the market.

Close to 20,000 farmers attending the fair at Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology flocked the LGHL stand to see the machine.

This comes at a time when the government and donor partners are advocating adoption of modern drying techniques to replace roadside drying and mitigate against rising cases of grain contamination.

Last year the government condemned maize from about 30 districts in Coast and Eastern provinces after tests confirmed Aflatoxin contamination. Reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that the country has suffered from contamination at least six times, including in 1982, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009.

This saw Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta, in last year’s budget, allocate Sh400 million and Sh360 million towards buying of fixed and mobile maize driers respectively to reduce post-harvest losses. The project, which is still in the pilot phase, is yet to be fully implemented after the Agriculture ministry diverted the funds to other areas creating space for private entrepreneurs. 

USAid has been testing a mobile dryer in Eastern Kenya as part of an initiative to support food stability in the country.  The two-day event, which ended Monday, attracted over 70 exhibitors drawn from the dairy, agrochemical, fertiliser, farm machinery, maize production, banking and storage industries. Running under the theme Enhancing Returns in Agribusiness Investments Opportunities and Challenges, the fair came at a time when the country is facing starvation.

According to EAGC representatives, the fair aimed at creating a forum to address factors contributing to famine and providing mitigation measures on challenges to sustainable food production.

Ministry of Agriculture official Zakayo Magara, who was the chief guest, said the ministry would use such exhibitions to educate more farmers.

Productivity

“With such exhibitions, both public and private sectors like financial institutions come together to enable farmers enhance agricultural productivity which is why the ministry is supporting them,” Mr Magara said.

He said through such fairs, farmers are given opportunities to invest in tangible products that penetrate the food market and enhance food insecurity.

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