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Thika residents accuse selected millers, NCPB of conspiring to hoard GOK Unga.

Small traders almost causing a stampede as they run into Mama Maize Millers in search of  the GOK subsidised unga on Tuesday morning. There has been complaints of discrimination and hoarding of unga by some of the big millers and traders in Thika, a reason why residents are unable to get this precious commodity.
A section of Thika residents have blamed the current shortage of the G.O.K. subsidised maize floor on some unscrupulous millers and traders who they accused of hoarding this precious commodity to make quick cash. They are also pointing an accusing finger to some officers working in the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPD) for conspiring to selectively supply excess unga to these millers.

Tuesday morning, the Thika Town Today crew visited various millers within the sub-county to ascertain the real course why there was still no unga on the retailers’ shelves despite the government importing into the country millions of bags of maize. The situation in most of them was the same as we came across so many prospective customers waiting outside the gates hoping to get at least some maize floor.

At one of the millers, Mama Millers Ltd., we found tens of disappointed customers outside the gate, some of whom were nursing mothers desperately hoping to buy any little unga they could get.

There was almost a stampede when the management opened the gate so as to explain to them that they had not yet received any maize from the NCPD. The people typically run into the company to line up for unga. And probably anticipating possible chaos, the management had called in the police to ensure their safety in case the traders got unruly.

We came to learn that due to the intensity of the problem, the management of the plant had opted to accommodate all types of buyers.

Christine Ndunge, a kiosk retailer in Maguguni, Thika East Sub-County said that they preferred to buy from this particular miller because they allowed them to buy in the amounts each could afford, including in packets.

“The big reason why you see so many of us here is because Mama Millers does not discriminate us. Here it’s first-come-first-served and you are allowed to buy as little as in packets. The other millers won’t sell to you if you don’t buy at least 50 bales of unga,” said Ndunge.

She explained how some of them had camped at the gate from as early as 5am in the morning hoping to get at least some unga since that last time they did was on Wednesday last week.

The traders accused some millers of forcing them to buy other commodities before they were allowed to buy the subsidised unga.

“The big millers are not selling to us the small traders nor anyone who doesn’t have an account with them. They are telling us that their ration has been set aside exclusively for their regular customers,” said Simon Maina Kuria alias Maish Mundu, a trader in Majengo Estate Thika.

He claimed to have ran into losses due to the time wasted looking for the floor, adding that he had also lost some of his customers to other traders who were able to get this unga.

(Related story: REVEALED! This is the reason you aint getting the KES. 90 GOK UNGA.)

We also heard that some of the big millers were also milling the subsidised maize and packing them in sacks instead of the recommended 1kg. or 2kg. Bags by the government.

“These millers are packing the unga in sacks and selling them to selected supermarkets and wholesalers for this is fetching them more money. You should also know that the same traders are repackaging the flour into polythene bags and selling it in smaller quantities for a higher price,” explained one of the traders.

And for sure, in one of the companies we visited, we met a pick-up van getting out of the gate carrying about twenty 70kg bags of maize flour.

While responding to the press, the Managing Director of Mama Millers Ltd. Mr. Bernard Wainaina Mwangi reckoned that they have been having challenges getting maize stocks from the NCPB as whatever they got was never enough.

“We expected some maize today (Tuesday) from the cereal board but when our trucks went there this morning, they were told that they couldn’t get any for they were carrying out some stock taking. We have no choice but to explain to our disappointed customers that there is no unga,” said the MD.

He explained that the company received its last batch of maize over a week ago which lasted for just three days.

“We have a capacity to grind about 1,700 bags daily but we have been receiving about 3,000 bags weekly which is way below the demand currently,” added Mr. Wainaina.

The management of Capwell Millers Ltd. too complained of scarcity in the rations they were currently receiving from NCPB, forcing them to close down one of their milling plant. They warned that if the situation escalated, they would be forced to lay off some of their workers.

However, they remained non-committal on the amount of unga they received, rather directing us to The Cereal Millers Association (CMA) for details.

“Whatever maize we receive from the cereals board we mill and supply it to our customers who are basically supermarkets and wholesalers. But it will be okay if you get details of the whole rationing from the Secretary General of CMA. They are the ones who deal with the government directly. We only receive what has been allocated to us though the NCPB,” said one of the directors who did not wish to be quoted.

However, he hoped that the situation will improve by the beginning of next month when more rations will be received.

Efforts to reach the management of Kenblest Millers were fruitless as we were not allowed to access the premises.

The management of NCPB Thika Branch declined to give us any official response as they claimed they were unauthorised to speak to the press. They referred us to the head office in Nairobi for detailed response.

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