Land hitch kills Sh2 bn maize project in Trans Nzoia

Subsistence maize farmers on a farm. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Subsistence maize farmers on a farm. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Plans to set up a multibillion shilling maize milling and animal feed production plant in Trans Nzoia County have suffered a major blow after investors pulled out over acute land shortage for industrial development.

The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) disclosed that investors from Turkey were reluctant to pump millions of shillings to purchase land to set up the the Sh2 billion plant.

“The investors have made it clear that they will not spend any money to buy land for the project in the area and are instead willing to relocate to a different region,” said Laban Onditi, the KNCCI national vice chairman and director for the Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZ).

The project was meant to boost agri-business in maize growing counties in the North Rift region by offering a ready market for the cereal.

Mr Onditi said scarcity of land was scaring away investors and derailed the government's plan to realise industrialisation and vision 2030.

“There is need for the county government to avail land which is a major factor in setting up of manufacturing firms and employment creation,” said Mr Onditi without revealing the identity of the Turkish investors.

He revealed that a group of investors had expressed willingness to establish multi-million shilling agro-processing plants for value addition on cereals and dairy produce from the region.

Trans Nzoia Governor-elect, Patrick Khaemba, said requests to have 50 acres from the Kenya Prisons Service and a further 400 acres from the Kenya Forest Service is yet to get approval from the national government.

“We are still lobbying the national government to give us part of land in town to enable us realise our expansion plan of Kitale town which is congested,” said Mr Khaemba yesterday in Kitale town.

“We have to expand this town because the current population of 200,000 has outlived its colonial plan, which was meant for about 45,000 people,” he added.

Kitale lies on 18 square kilometres of land, half of which falls under the Kitale Golf Club. It is one of Kenya’s oldest towns.

Food basket

Trans Nzoia, part of Kenya’s food basket belt, harvested 4.7 million bags of maize last year down from 5.3 million bags the previous season.

Trans-Nzoia is one of eight counties - Uasin Gishu, Samburu, Baringo, Turkana, Nandi, West Pokot, Trans-Nzoia and Elgeyo-Marakwet - that form the North Rift Economic Bloc (NOREB).

Officials from the bloc say they have cumulatively struck deals worth hundreds of billions with local and international investors willing to set up businesses in the region.

“As a chamber we are working with county governments through trade fair woo investors to unlock their economic potential,” said Mr Onditi.