Maize mills close shop amid grain shortage

Traders weighing maize at Isebania border. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

Over 30 millers have shut down operations due to shortage of maize, rendering hundreds of workers jobless.

Traders say the business is no longer sustainable because of the high price of maize and operation costs.

“We stopped operations when a 90kg bag of maize hit Sh5,500. We have been forced to send all the 20 members of staff on leave,” said Rachel Miami, the director of Rami Millers Limited in Eldoret.

She said they have been in full operation since 2016 but were slowed down by Covid-19 in 2020, but have now been hit again by the high cost of raw materials as maize prices increase.

“We have even applied to have some dry maize from the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) but are yet to receive any response,” she said.

Miami said the enterprise used to mill an average of 100 bags of 90kg per day and has been supplying to shops in Uasin Gishu, Nandi and even Kisumu.

“But when prices went high, products could not move in shops. Some clients even started buying smaller quantities like half kilogramme, especially in urban estates,” said Miami. “There are additional costs of operation, including packaging and licence fees that made our business unsustainable.”

David Maritim, the manager at Rami millers, said fuel prices are also to blame.

Kipngetich Mutai, the chairman of Grain Belt Millers, said of the 35 millers in their association, only three that are based in Nairobi are operating.

“Only three millers who operate on low capacity are still on, out of our 35 members. There is no maize and the Nairobi-based millers source the grain from Tanzania,” said Mutai, who is also a director of Ineet Millers in Eldoret that has since closed shop. “High fuel prices will lead to losses if we transport maize from Tanzania to Eldoret.”

The officials appealed to the government to address the challenge, which they said, could lead to food shortage and also affect income for those employed in the sector.

Samuel Yego, the Uasin Gishu  Executive committee member for Agriculture, said farmers worked hard to produce food in the last season, with the county alone recording a maize yield of 4.5 million bags of 90kg each.