With flour shortages looming, and many vegetables lending themselves to flour milling, in addition to maize, setting up a farm-based milling can provide value addition and far higher earnings from crops, quickly covering the initial cost of the equipment.
According to a recently concluded International Livestock Research Institute research, for the majority of maize consumed in Kenya, the main point of value addition is the village-based hammer mill, known locally as the posho mill.
Yet, as common as local milling practice is, knowledge on the machinery and its usage is still elusive to many. This article, therefore, covers the various models, output capacities, prices and best uses for different maize milling machinery to achieve the best flour sales.
To begin with, posho mills are powered by different sources: electricity, diesel and water. The most common are diesel and electricity. When buying, they usually come coupled with either an electric motor or a diesel engine depending on the customers preference. Ideally, the cost should be the same regardless of the power source of the mill.
Where the goal is to produce grade one sifted flour that is closest to the kind found in supermarkets, then the miller machines should be accompanied with other accessory machines, that is, the huller, pre-crusher and rollers.
The process of producing grade 1 flour begins by depositing maize grains into a huller to clean and separate the grain from the skin. The grains are then placed into a pre-crusher that breaks the grain into smaller rice-like particles preparing them into a form that is suitable for the roller to grind. The pre-crusher works hand-in-hand with a roller mill. The roller semi-hulls and separates the grain from the germ and husks and produces a clean high quality flour. Its main function is to sift and refine.
Economy-sized posho mills come in GM 15 and 20 models that can grind a maximum of three to four (90 kg) bags per hour. They are used where the target market prefers whole meal flour in its original non-sifted form and, therefore, is typically used for household purposes. However, they can also be a lucrative source of income for those seeking to produce flour on a small scale. In Kenya, it is not uncommon for people to consume whole meal flour. In fact, according to a 2016 report by the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development at Egerton University, 74 per cent of rural households in Kenya consume non-sifted posho-mill flour, preferring it for its affordability, easy availability, high nutritional value and fibre content.
For those with ambitious goals of operating in town or busy market centres, medium-sized posho mills are more suitable, of GM 25 and 30, with the capacity to produce six to eight bags per hour. They are easy to operate and maintain, and designed for continuous operation. They can be relied on to cater to highly demanding market situations. The governments plans to supply the owners of posho mills with cheaper maize may open up the opportunity for better profit margins on such mills.
Large posho mills are recommended for those starting flour milling plants. They come in GM 35 and 40 and can produce more than 15 bags per hour at maximum output. Additionally, they are suitable for reducing any dried materials, ores and soft minerals into flour. Their prices usually range from Sh320,000 to Sh425,000.
Currently, it is estimated that 70 per cent of packaged maize flour consumed in urban Kenya is produced by large scale millers. Therefore, despite having high initial costs, investing in large scale milling can position producers better for the urban market.As of 2019, the per capita consumption of maize in Kenya was 60 kgs, equivalent to 5kgs per person per month, showing that despite price fluctuations, maize consumption has remained within the same range since 2009. In the next 10 to 15 years, maize flour consumption is expected to increase by at least 6 per cent.
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