Farmers set up Sh450m maize milling plant to ward off cartels

Offloading of factory machines at the newly established Moisoy maize milling plant owned by Uasin Gishu farmers in July 2021. (Courtesy)

Farmers from Uasin Gishu County, through their saccos, have established a Sh450 million maize milling plant that will offer better prices for their produce.

In early 2019, large-scale farmers in the country’s grain basket decided to take on middlemen by initiating the process of setting up their own maize milling plant.

After a number of false starts, the farmers and officials say Moisoy Millers in Soy is now ready to start operation and would deliver flour to retail shops and supermarkets. 

More than 2,000 members, through their saccos, have registered, according to officials. Chairman of Moisoy Farmers Belfast Sang said the maize milling journey kicked off in February 2019 and was expected to start production of maize flour last year.

Covid-19 pandemic, however, disrupted a plan to import and install Sh300 million worth of processing equipment.

James Rogony, a maize farmer from Soy, says he expects to deliver about 3,000 bags of maize this season to the miller for value addition and hence earn better returns.

“As farmers, we have decided not to stage protests in the streets to demand for better maize prices. We have decided to be part of those who control the prices by milling our own produce,” Mr Rogony told The Standard.

He said a majority of shareholders are large-scale farmers who have been supplying maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) and leading private millers in Eldoret.

Mr Rogony says he expects to earn as high as Sh5,000 per bag of maize after value addition, unlike the current Sh2,500.  A farmer from Kesses, John Cheruiyot, said the move will benefit maize farmers because it will deny unscrupulous traders the huge profits they have been enjoying by buying maize at cheap prices from producers and selling it to NCPB at very high prices.

“This idea will give brokers a test of their own medicine. We have suffered low prices for many years and this might be a lasting solution we have been longing for. We will mill our maize instead of selling to middlemen,” said Mr Cheruiyot.

But another farmer, Jackson Kwambai, from Moiben cast doubts on the viability of the plan, saying a majority of farmers have not been involved.

Mr Kwambai, a large-scale farmer, said other maize producing counties such as Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet and Bungoma have not expressed interest in supporting the initiative.

“This proposal will only solve farmers’ problems if they are fully involved. It is costly to manage maize processing. We already have several private milling plants in the region,” he said.

Uasin Gishu deputy governor Daniel Chemno reassured farmers that the maize milling plant is ready to receive grain from farmers. Mr Chemno asked more farmers to buy shares in Moisoy Millers using their produce.

“As farmers, we want to do business. We are ready to mill our maize so that the farmer fetches good returns. At the end of the year, the farmer will enjoy dividends. Instead of selling to middlemen, the farmers will take their maize to Moisoy,” said Chemno .

Mr Sang, the Moisoy chairman, says at least 52 saccos under the conglomerate have already registered. 

He said farmers are buying shares with their maize produce, adding that the cooperative societies also secured Sh67m from a local sacco to boost the support from the county in setting up the plant. 

According to Sang, the famers’ miller would process at least 36,000 tons of maize, an equivalent of 400,000 bags of one year’s harvest.     

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