Half of small millers shut down on maize shortage

Workers load maize at the port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Half of the small-scale millers have shut their businesses due to a lack of maize in a move that is likely to see consumers pay more for flour.

United Grain Millers Association chairman Ken Nyagah said the maize shortage forced processors to shut since the beginning of this month as they lack the financial muscles to import the grain compared with their large-scale counterparts

Costly maize has compounded the situation. The limited stocks available have seen a 90-kg bag sell for Sh5,000 from Sh4,700 last month. The 152 small-scale processors account for 70 percent of the local flour market.

The maize shortage has also hit large-scale processors that are not milling continuously as they should but at least they are still operating because of the purchases that they are making from Zambia and Malawi.

“At least 50 percent of our members have closed because of an acute shortage of maize in the market at the moment. Locally there are hardly in stocks that we are getting from farmers,” said Mr Nyagah.

The government allowed millers to import maize outside of the region duty-free but the processors argued that the produce from the world market is more expensive and not economically viable to ship in at the moment.

As such, millers are now importing the grain from Malawi and Zambia, with a 90-kilogramme bag landing at Sh5,200 in Nairobi.

The government was banking on imports outside of Africa to curb the rising cost of flour, which has now hit Sh150 for a two-kilogramme packet from an average of Sh120 in January.

Processors have warned that the cost of flour could hit Sh200 in the next couple of weeks as the price of maize is expected to continue rising.

At the moment, there is a shortage of maize supply to the Kenyan market from the regional markets as most stocks from Uganda are heading to South Sudan where they fetch a good price.

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