Maize farmers in North Rift region have begun the process of establishing maize milling plants to end price woes that have rocked the sector over the years.
The proposal by frustrated farmers aims at ending poor grain prices and exploitation by middlemen as well as delay in payment for produce sold to State’s Strategic Food Reserves (SFRs).
The farmers yesterday said they will establish three maize milling factories in Uasin Gishu County through existing farmers’ cooperative societies to add value to their grains and boost returns from their investment.
Sacco bosses said when completed, the milling plants will empower farmers to compete with existing millers who have been buying maize from them for decades.
North Rift Cooperative Cereals Union announced that 100 farmers’ saccos had expressed interest in buying shares in the mills that will become operational next year, adding that 14 entities have officially registered.
The cooperatives union treasurer David Kiberenge said the three mills will serve farmers in the maize producing counties of Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Nandi and Elgeyo Marakwet as well as counties from the Western region.
Mr Kiberenge said the farmers’ empowerment plan will end perennial complaints of low prices of grain by farmers.
He said farmers from the region will produce adequate raw materials to sustain the three proposed maize milling factories.
“Maize farmers will not be complaining over poor prices again. They will be selling unga (maize flour) like any other millers. We have the raw materials and we have no reason to go ahead with milling our own produce,” Kiberenge told The Standard after series of stakeholder meetings.
He said a union of cooperatives from Moiben and Soy constituencies under the umbrella of Moisoy Cooperatives, have already constructed maize stores and a groundbreaking of their miller, which is among the three proposed milling plants, has been done.
According to Kiberenge, two other farmer cooperative unions from Kesses, Ainabkoi, Turbo and Kapseret, are making progress towards establishing two milling firms.
“Existing millers have been buying our maize for than 50 years and we have not enjoyed better prices. We are urging the counties to support our plan,” the unionist said.
Moisoy Farmers’ Cooperative union representative Belfast Sang said the idea of milling plants was mooted mid-last year after the State delayed in paying farmers who delivered maize to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
“We have made good progress in Moiben and Soy and this year will be the last season that we are selling our maize to millers and the State. We urge other cooperatives in the region to speed up the process of establishing their milling plants,” said Mr Sang.
A farmer from Kesses, John Cheruiyot, said the move will be good for maize producers because it will deny unscrupulous traders the huge profits they have been enjoying by buying maize at cheap prices and selling to NCPB at high very high prices.