KENYA – In a move to reduce overreliance on maize, the government of Kenya is on course to make blended flour mandatory for millers effective this November.

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

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

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

According to the State, the main goal of the initiative is to make under-utilized crops more value-chain competitive, improve nutrition as well create employment opportunities.

Hailing the move, stakeholders in the Flour Blending Initiative feel that the move is long overdue, accusing the government of dragging its feet in approving the regulation.  As a result, the government has given a September deadline for the regulation to be affected.

The push for the milling of blended flours by millers started in 2018, when the Ministry of Agriculture with help from various development partners drafted guidelines and standards governing the blending of maize and wheat flour.

Bridging deficit with local commodities

Kenya has been experiencing an acute maize shortage due to drought coupled with a high cost of fertilizers that raised the cost of production.

Recent data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) reveals that the production of Kenya’s number one staple food, maize, has fallen by a whopping 10.9 million in five years hampering the country’s food security efforts.

In addition, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya produces 36-38 million bags of maize annually against consumption of 48 million bags in the same duration, compelling 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.

Wambugu said that that’s why the state is targeting sorghum, cassava, millet, and sweet potatoes which can be locally availed to be blended with either maize or wheat.

The regulations and standards, she added, will provide guidelines on how to go about the entire process –from acquiring and handling the raw materials to the final process of packaging.

To ensure its implementation, the ministry has been working closely with the European Union, Selp-Help Africa, and several other organizations to kick-start the initiative.

A collaborative effort

According to Nation, County governments have also been brought on board and tasked to come up with an action plan on how they will assist farmers in growing more of the under-utilized crops.

The 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.

Anthony Ndirangu, National chairman of the Agro Processors Association of Kenya (APAK) on his part, expressed contentment with the move saying that millers have had a rough time searching for these products, 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 sensitize the public through a vigorous campaign on the importance of consuming blended flour before they start milling.

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