Nasib Mwaka and his wife run a small cereals mill in Kisiita town, Kakumiro district, obviously tapping into the hundreds of tonnes of raw maize grown in the area.
“I grow between 15-20 acres of maize every season. Unlike most farmers, I do not sell my maize raw. I process it in this unit and sell the flour to as far as Kampala,” Mwaka says.
As the second 2021 harvest season kicks in, maize farmers should think about adding value in order to mitigate possible losses. This, farmers can do even if they do not have their own maize mills.
Mwaka says you need 100kg of maize grain to produce 70kg of fine maize flour. If you sell each kilogramme of flour at sh1,500, this means that you get around sh105,000 from the 70kg. Comparatively, if you had sold these 100kg as grain at sh500 each, you would have got sh50,000 from the same.
In addition to the 70kg of fine flour, you also retain at least 20kg of maize bran. With each kilogramme going for sh700 at wholesale, this means that this is an additional sh14,000 from the flour, making a total of sh119,000 from the 100kg of maize. Additionally, from every 100kg of maize grain, there is 25kg of maize bran after the flour is milled. At sh700 per kilogramme, this gives a farmer an additional sh17,500 for every 100kg.
“Even if a farmer does not have his own flour mill, he can take the grain to the nearest mill,” Mwaka says. At the mills, a kilogramme of flour is milled at between sh150-sh200. This means that if a farmer has 100kg, he spends sh20,000 on milling the flour. This means that the profit reduces by sh20,000 to around sh90,000. This is still much better than selling the grain raw.
On average, according to the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) statistics, an acre of maize produces 800kg in Uganda. This means if a farmer sells each kilogramme at sh500, then he can only earn sh400,000 from their efforts. However, if they added value to the same, they would earn sh90,000 for every 100kg, which adds up to around sh900,000.
This means that if a farmer with 15 acres sells his maize as flour, they would have 21 tonnes of fine flour and at least sh31m in addition to earnings from maize bran.
Machinery requirements at a glance for a small size mill
Engine or motor sh2.5m
Others including a low or hoisted weighing scale, sacks for packing and of course labor. These may cost around sh1.5m. Overall, the total cost of starting a medium-size maize mill is around sh15m on average under a fully registered as a company.
Costs of running a mill
According to estimates, you need around sh900,000 to mill a tonme of maize flour. A tonne has got 1,000kg. These expenses include cost of the maize grain, power/fuel for the generators, labour plus wear and tear of machinery.
To process a tonne of fine flour, you need around 1.8 tonnes of maize grain. At a cost of sh500 per kilogramme of grain, this means that you spend sh900,000 on the grain. The other money is spent on labour, power and sacks for packing the flour.
At the current cost of sh1500 per kilogramme of flour, the mill will make sh1.5m from the tonne of flour. This gives a profit of around sh500,000. Comparatively, a farmer earned only sh900,000 from the same raw material. Mwaka says if the mill operates constantly, you can recover the costs of investment in less than one year.
Mwaka packs his maize flour in white sacks ranging from 5-25kg, with the inscription Mwaka Maize Mill.
On the other hand, Chris Kaijuka, who processes flour under his Afro-Kai brand does it perfectly.
“I brand my flour and other cereals in multi-colored bags, complete with the name of my milling company,” he says. Maize flour is largely consumed as steamed and mingled food (posho) or as porridge across the East and Central African regions.
With its high levels of starch, maize bran is a key component of livestock feeds. A kilogramme of maize bran goes for sh700.