Blended flour to hit the shelves in November

An employee arranges packets of maize flour at Chieni Supermarket

An employee arranges packets of maize flour at Chieni Supermarket in Nyeri town on May 3, 2023. Many supermarkets are forced to ration the commodity whenever there is a shortage.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Come November this year, millers in the country will be expected to produce blended flours, after the government gazettes regulations.

Already, the regulations have been drafted and sent to the Attorney General for approval before they are passed into law.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards is also finalising standards that will guide the certification process of these products. The standards were formulated by national, county governments and development partners.

Stakeholders in the ‘Flour Blending Initiative’, are accusing the government of dragging its feet in approving the regulations, however, the government has given a September deadline for the regulation to be effected.

Through the initiative, millers will be expected to mill 10 percent of their daily produce into blended flour.

The main goal of the initiative is to make under-utilised crops more value-chain competitive, improve nutrition as wellcreate employment opportunities.

Since 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture with help from various development partners has been pushing for milling of blended flours by millers. The aim is to reduce over-dependance on maize as well as bridge the gap of maize deficit in the country.

According to data from the ministry of Agriculture, Kenya produces 36-38milllion bags of maize annually against a consumption of 48million bags in the same duration. This compels the country to import the deficit.

“This means we are normally faced with a deficit of around 12 million bags annually. And to bridge this gap, we need to come up with a way to fill the gap,” said Ag Director Capacity Building and Knowledge Management from the Ministry of Agriculture, Jane Wambugu.

The crops that are being targeted in this initative are sorghum, cassava, millet and sweet potatoes, which will be blended with either maize or wheat.

The regulations and standards will provide guidelines on how to go about the entire process –from acquiring and handling the raw materials to the final process of packaging. The ministry has been working closely with the European Union, Selp-Help Africa and several other organisations to kick-start the initiative.

County governments have also been brought onboard and tasked to come up with an action plan on how they will assist farmers grow more of the under-utilised crops. Majority of the counties are from the arid and semi-arid regions (Asal) since the targeted crops do well in these regions. The stakeholders are also aiming at promoting climate-smart-agriculture.

Currently, millers who produce flour from some of the under-utilised crops source their raw material from the neighbouring countries since local farmers produce very little for commercial purposes.

“As millers, we normally go through a rough time searching for these products,” says Anthony Ndirangu, National chairman of Agro Processors Association of Kenya (APAK), adding that their biggest challenge is the likelihood of consumption of the blended flours by the public.

With this in mind, he calls on the government to sensitise the public through a vigorous campaign on the importance of consuming blended flours before they start milling.

Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) and other seed manufacturing companies have already started producing new, clean and high yielding seeds.

Kalro is heading the production of roots and tubers seeds while Kephis is managing production of vegetative planting materials.

Anthony Nyaga, Seeds manager, Kalro, says they are able to produce a total of 200,000 metric tonnes of required seeds. As for improved cassava seed, it has a potential of 40 tonnes per acre while sorghum can yield up to 2.5-3 tonnes per acre, while millet and sweet potatoes can produce one and 15-20 tonnes respectively under optimum conditions.

“We have already come up with quality planting materials that farmers can access easily at affordable prices. These farmers will also be educated on how they can help us in seeds multiplication,” says Mr Nyaga.