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Millers reluctant to buy cheap NCPB maize

Farmers pick up fertiliser from Eldoret NCPB stores in February. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Farmers pick up fertiliser from Eldoret NCPB stores in February. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is facing difficulties selling tonnes of cheap maize meant to cushion consumers from high flour prices.

Private millers are reluctant to buy the maize being sold to them by the government at a subsidised price of Sh2,300 per 90kg.

This is despite the acute shortage of grains in the country, which has
led to an increase in flour prices to about Sh120 a bag.

The government has already announced that it will open a three-month window for duty-free import of 12.5 million bags of maize to meet the shortfall.

Looking for buyers

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The NCPB is holding 760,000 out of the 2 million bags it released to millers last month.

“We still have 760,000 bags of maize in our stores and millers are invited to buy them,” said Titus Maiyo, NCPB Corporate Affairs Manager.

He disclosed that millers have paid for 1.24 million bags out of which 982,000 bags have been collected by various firms.

Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) board chairman Dr Noah Wekesa said 1.7 million bags was allocated to millers for human consumption and 300,000 bags for manufacture of animal feed.

He said the board was waiting for the Cabinet to approve the loss of Sh5 million it incurred for the 2 million bags released at low cost last month.

This is before discharging an additional 1.5 million bags to tame the rising flour prices and make it affordable to consumers.

“We are waiting for the Cabinet to sanction the loss incurred as we plan on how to release more grains to millers at affordable rates,” Dr Wekesa said.

Low quality

Despite the attractive price tag of Sh2,300, against a retail cost Sh3,200 per bag, NCPB maize has failed to get adequate buyers.

Millers claim the grain is of low quality due to damage by molds and discolouration.

They have demanded for forensic audit and testing to determine whether the maize was contaminated due to inappropriate handling by the board.

The processors in western Kenya on Tuesday claimed that maize obtained from most NCPB stores in the region has high Rotten Discoloured Damaged (RDD) ratio and unfit for milling.

“Forensic audit and testing needs to be done know if maize from of the NCPB silos contain aflatoxin due moulds owing to unsuitable management procedures,” said one of the millers who requested not to be named.

They named Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Moi’s Bridge and Bungoma NCPB silos that have been hit by poor maize quality as the country experiences acute shortage of the staple.

The Ministry of Agriculture has in a report tabled in parliament revealed that 124,500 bags of maize at the NCPB stores is contaminated and has to be destroyed through incineration.

The contaminated maize is said to have high levels of aflatoxin and unfit for human consumption.

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