Government rhetoric on the runaway pricing of staple maize flour intensified yesterday after Water and Irrigation secretary Eugene Wamalwa claimed that retail prices were about to fall by half with the release of flour from its Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme.
Mr Wamalwa said the flour, to be priced at Sh75 for a 2kg packet, would be released in coastal markets today having been milled and stored at the Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme.
This is, however, not likely to make any impact in the retail market given that the discredited Galana scheme has only produced 165,000 bags of maize after consuming billions of shillings and has so far milled only 5,000 bags.
Kenya consumes one million bags of maize every week, meaning that the entire stock of 165,000 bags would last for only one and a half days if milled and taken to the market in one batch – lifting the lid on the minister’s hollow promise that it would cut retail prices by half.
The National Irrigation Board (NIB) said the cost of producing a 2kg packet of the Unga Galana, the brand name of maize flour from the scheme, is Sh74 and that it would not be sold at a profit.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee government had upon coming to power promised to bring hunger and food shortages to an end through irrigated agriculture, starting with the one million-acre Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme but not much has come out of the promise, leaving more three million people hungry.
Maize is the most expensive component in producing a 2kg packet of maize flour at Sh54 followed by fuel at Sh14.
The price of maize is itself determined by availability of the cereal in the market, according to the Cereal Millers Association.
NIB data indicates that the cost of producing a 90kg bag of maize in Galana stands at Sh1,000 compared to Sh1,800 in small firms.
Of the 10,000 acres model farm under NIB management, only 4,250 acres is under crop cover.
Mr Wamalwa said more than 200,000 acres of the land will be put under crop production in the next six months following importation of the required water pumps from Israel.
This will be done through leasing of portion of the land to the private sector in phases until the entire one million acres are covered.
NIB is currently using a small milling plant with the capacity to process four tonnes flour per hour. The plans to acquire a larger mill stumbled last year after the budget was slashed from Sh14 billion to Sh7 billion.
Mwangi Thuita, the chief engineer planning and design at NIB, said the small mill is being used as a case study to showcase the potential of Galana.
Credit: Business Daily