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    Smallholder maize farmers in Kenya can now shell up to 4kg of maize at ago without incurring either electricity or fuel costs, thanks to a manual shelling machine that cost less than Sh10,000

    The machine saves farmers the burden of physically removing maize from combs, a tedious, time wasting and costly exercise that is practiced by at least 85 per cent of smallholder farmers in the country according to a research dubbed ‘maize production, challenges and experience of smallholder farmers in East Africa by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)

    The manual machine introduced to the Kenyan market by Muharata Food Company allows a farmer to insert 30 pieces of maize in the equipment, which, when rotated by hand, shells the pieces one after another, separating grains from the comb. The farmer then slides the shelled maize into a container before repeating the entire exercise for the rest of his maize.
    According to Judy Wamboi, a Sales Representative at Muharata Food Company, the manual maize shell is fitted with two wheels hence easy to move it to the working joint. It costs KSh8500.

     The shelling kit is easy to install, remove and re-attach in case of repair or when cleaning,’’ explained Wamboi. She added that the machines are fuel efficient considering that only three litres of diesel is needed to shell 20-30 bags 90kg bag of maize.

    The company has three types of large scale maize shelling machines which includes electric, diesel powered and tractor driven. She explained that while they are in sizes, the most common ones are diesel driven with the capacity to shell 90kg of maize in two minutes. The machine is fitted with a sizable gunny bag where the shelled maize is collected while the combs are dropped on the ground. They range between Sh50,000-65,000.

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    Interested farmers can reach Muharata on + 254 020 201 3271 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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    Breakdown of machines at the Muhoroni  and Chemelil Sugar Companies could affect the milling of sugarcane. The Muhoroni company was closed on its Friday last week after two of its mills stalled.

    Chemelil is also facing a similar end, if its machines are not serviced soon.

    “We have not serviced our machines in the past three years, and we are afraid that milling might stop if we cannot give them the maintenance needed soon,” said Chemelil receiver manager Fredrick Kabenei.

    Chalenging times

    The two companies have been going through financial strife.

    Muhoroni has been cash-strapped since 2014, when it almost closed its doors after lacking funds to settle a KSh500m debt. At the time, the company had 30,000 tonnes of unsold sugar and was still producing 150 tonnes daily.

     

    Most of the the debt, which was owed to the government, was written off with plans for a privatisation plan that would see Muhoroni merged with Chemelil, with the aim of maximising the output from about 100,000 acres of land on which the two companies sit.

    The plan would see the land leased to investors, and the machinery fully depreciated allowing investors to deploy modern technology .

    Industry report

    Kenyan sugar producers have been unable to effectively sell their produce to the markets, owing to an influx of cheaper sugar imports.

    According to the Oxford Business Group, 1 tonne of cane was worth KSh3200 in 2015, down from KSh4000 in 2003.

    “In basic economic terms, it costs about $600 (KSh60,000) to produce a tonne of sugar in Kenya, double that of other sugar-producing members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).”

    This play has allowed room for the entry of sugar from neighbouring countries, most of which also comes in through illegal channels, hence beating established taxation structures.

    Bigger producer

    Mumias Sugar has been  responsible for 30% of Kenyan production. Yet it lost KSh2.08bn in the latter half of 2014. The government, which owns a 20% stake in the company, gave it a KSh500m bailouts in January 2015 and a further KSh1bn in July of the same year.  

    The company was expected to get another KSh5bn in support towards the end of last year.

    But even with the financial injection, in August 2015, the company was reported to have lost half of its market share in four years.

    State-owned South Nyanza (SoNy) and Nzoia also saw their shares decline by 5% and 1%, respectively in the same period.

    READ ALSO: Sugarcane Farmers Use Beetles to Tame Pest

    But even with the situation in the markets appearing grim, private companies are trying to establish ground in the country.

    United States' Dominion Farms, for instance, is working on plans to set up a 5000-acre sugar plantation and processing plant in Siaya County.

    Dominion signed a 25-year lease with the local community for a 17,000-acre swamp, with hopes of converting it into arable land, in exchange for offering jobs to locals and buying cane from residents.

    Alteo, the largest sugar producer in Mauritius, also recently annouced completion of due diligence on acquiring a 51% share in Transmara Sugar Company.

    The Transmara sugar zone, located in Narok County, has been found to have the potential to yield sugar that is two to three times more that of some parts of western Kenya.  

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