On a hill in Mende, Wakiso district, a big, brick structure houses a miracle, according to residents!
This is in form of a fairly modern maize mill, constructed with support from the Government of Uganda, through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS).
“We call it a miracle because it has saved us the odious task of carrying our maize grain to as far as Nansana for milling,” says Fred Masaba, a farmer.
Masaba does his farming at Bakka, about 3kms from the mill.
“I grow maize every season, however, I and fellow farmers were making losses because we could not add value to our maize,” Masaba says.
The mill, run by retired Captain Fred Mubiru, under his Serinya Agro-processors was constructed with help from the government.
“We had a lot of maize wasted in this area because we did not have a good mill. We lobbied the government and got this here. It is already changing the fortune of maize farmers,” he says.
Unlike many other mills, this one is equipped with a destoner and grain cleaner.
“Because of this added component, the quality of flour that comes out is better,” Mubiru says.
It has a capacity to mill 2,000kgs per day.
“We can mill over 14,000kgs a week or at least 56,000kgs a month. This can take care of most of the dried maize in this area,” Mubiru says.
The Central region and Bunyoro are the leading producers of maize in the country, according to the 2020 UBOS agriculture statistics report.
The survey pointed out that at least 2.8million tons were produced in 2019.
In the Central region, maize is mainly grown in Mubende, Kiboga and parts of Mityana, Kasanda and Luwero while in Bunyoro, maize is grown in Kakumiro, Kiryandongo and Hoima.
It is not surprising that Mubende has perhaps the largest number of maize processing facilities for any upcountry area. However, the report says that most of the maize is sold without value addition.
“63% of the maize is sold without being processed,” the report says.
According to Khadija Nakakande, in Charge of Communications at NAADS, this is one of several modern mills handed out to farmers across the country.
“We have a similar mill in Kiryandongo and plans to install others are underway,” she says.
The entire unit cost sh130m. In nearly all his Presidential addresses, President Yoweri Museveni has lamented the practice of selling raw, unprocessed maize.
However, farmers think that if more of these small-scale processing units are set up, then this challenge will be solved.
“I think that if every maize growing sub-county is equipped with a mill of this size, then losses suffered due to low maize prices will not occur again,” says Masaba.
Add value, earn more
Mubiru explains that adding value to maize grain gives a farmer more earnings in the hundreds of tons of raw maize grown in the area.
He explained that you need 100kgs of maize grain to produce 70kgs of fine maize flour. If you sell each kilogram of flour at sh1,500 at the mill, this means that you get around sh105,000 from the 70kgs.
Comparatively, if you had sold these 100kgs as grain at sh500 each during peak harvesting, you would have got sh50,000 from the same.
At the moment due to scarcity, a kilogram of maize flour goes for sh2200 at most mills and over sh2700 as the lowest retail price.
In addition to the 70kgs of fine flour, you also retain at least 20kgs of maize bran.
With each kilogram going for sh1,000 at wholesale, this means that this is an additional sh20,000 from the flour, making a total of sh125,000 from the 100kgs of maize.
“We charge farmers sh200 to mill every kilogram,” Mubiru says.
The farmer does not only take home the milled flour but also retains the maize bran.