'KEBS CLEAN BILL'

Stained yes, but our maize is safe, says NCPB

Board 'has not received official complaint' but millers say some packets of 1.9 million bags are discoloured

In Summary

• Millers say they have to but white maize to blend with the discoloured batch.

• They want SFR to release Grades 1 and 2 only for human consumption and Grades 3 and 4a for animal feed. 

Grade 3 maize from NCPB depot in Voi
DISCOLOURED: Grade 3 maize from NCPB depot in Voi
Image: COURTESY

 

Maize bought by millers from the National Cereals and Produce Board is fit for human consumption, Kenyans have been assured.

The assurance follows complaints from millers that some packets of the 1.9 million bags being released by NCPB are not safe.  

NCPB spokesman Titus Maiyo on Thursday told the Star by phone that the maize had been given a clean bill of health by the Kenya Bureau of Standards.

"We have not received an official complaint from the millers on the safety of maize we are selling them. The maize is, however, discoloured and has turned yellow but it is still fit for human consumption," Maiyo said. 

As of Wednesday, millers had collected 720,000 bags of the cereal from various depots, Maiyo said.  

The Strategic Food Reserve Board released the second batch of 1.9 million bags of maize to millers to cushion Kenyans from high prices of unga.  A 2kg packet of maize flour is selling at between Sh120 to Sh127. 

A miller who did not want to be mentioned for fear of victimisation described the maize situation as an 'insult added to the injury'.

He claimed that the supply from NCPB was limited and was costly, compounded by poor quality. He said what is coming from Uganda is highly contaminated.

Most of the millers the Star talked to on Thursday said they have to blend what they are getting from the board with white maize. 

Grade 1 maize from NCPB depot in Eldoret
'FIT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION': Grade 1 maize from NCPB depot in Eldoret
Image: COURTESY

“We are forced to buy white maize to blend at a cost similar to that of NCPB or more expensive. So millers prefer to keep off the board and instead buy white maize from traders at Sh3,500 for Tanzanian maize and Sh2,600 to Sh2,700 for Ugandan maize,” the miller said. 

“SFR should only have sold Grades 1 and 2 for maize flour while Grades 3 and 4a should have been left for animal feeds. The bottom line is that blending with white maize does not tackle poor quality. You are still giving a consumer something that is not good.”

United Grain Millers Association chairman Kennedy Nyaga said maize from Uganda has a high moisture content (between 14 to 17 per cent) contrary to the required limit of 12.5 to 13 per cent.

He said if the maize is not dried well, it may get contaminated with aflatoxin.

Nyaga said many smallscale millers do not have drying facilities and what is offered by NCPB is expensive for many of them.

NCPB charges Sh10 to Sh20 per moisture content so if you have a moisture content of 16 and you need it dried to 13 that will cost about Sh30 to Sh60 exclusive of labour. 

“UGMA is engaging with non-governmental organisations to put up a laboratory to cater to the testing of aflatoxin and fortification. The re-agents used for the test are expensive and members of the association cannot afford,” he said.

It costs about Sh30 million to Sh40 million to invest in drying, aflatoxin and fortification testing machines and that only largescale millers have this capacity, the millers' chairman said. 

Edited by R.Wamochie 

Grade 2 maize
SAFETY CONCERNS: Grade 2 maize
Image: COURTESY