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Gov’t urged to establish value addition centre

Chemical maker Bio-Corn Products Limited is a manufacturing company that uses maize cobs as raw material.

It was established in the 1970s with the aim of producing various chemicals for industrial use and there are only two in Africa that is in Kenya and South Africa.

Maize cobs at Bio-Corn Products Limited in Uasin Gishu County used in producing furfurals that are currently exported to the USA. Photo by Judy Too

Based in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, the company’s use of maize cobs used to produce various chemicals for industrial use is a major boost to local maize farmers who often throw away the cobs as waste or use as domestic fuel and for years they have acted as environmental effluents.

The chemical maker uses furfural as their primary raw material and the product is widely used for making inks, plastics, antacids, adhesives, nematicides, fungicides, fertilizers, and flavouring compounds. The chemical is also used as a pesticide and weed killer.

The company’s House Team leader Joseph Kipkemboi Yiego said, “much of the furfural we produce is exported under Export Processing Zone (EPZ) to America but local manufacturers also benefit from the production process bi-products which include Acetic acid and Formic acid which brings down their operation costs while promoting other local company’s operations,”.

“Our estimated annual production is 5,000 tonnes of furfural per year. We could produce more but as much as the corns are available, our technology is outdated and it is expensive to replace but the process is underway to install the new technology,” he said.

Yiego noted the biggest challenge they have currently is finance that would help them modernize their machines to help them maximize the outcome from the important gases that got lost into the atmosphere during emissions yet they are very valuable in gaining them positive returns.

A robust machine used in extracting furfural in maize cobs which provides Acetic and Formic acid used in industrial processes. Photo by Judy Too

They have called on farmers to take this opportunity and supply them with the maize cobs in the process of preserving the environment and at the end getting value on what seems to be useless refuse from their farms.

The company is in the preliminary stages of commercializing its products in large quantities because of their best quality furfurals. Modernization process is in line with their agenda to put them in place in competing with likeminded competitors in this field.

Yiego said the company has been facing numerous challenges like any other company in Kenya, the worst being Covid-19 which led to closure of borders, expensive power, negative politics from local leaders and poor coordinating policies regarding the ‘buy Kenya build Kenya initiative’ in relation to taxation on raw materials.

The company urges Uasin Gishu County government to put in place extra measures in regulating land subdivision problems that would in future affect their business.

The county agricultural officers could also enlighten the farmers on the treasure they are disposing as refuse as they dispose cobs.

The company has called on the government to create value addition channels on Kenyan products to grant them maximum guarantee returns on their products.

Currently the company is exporting their products to the USA who benefit more given their high technology which helps them diversify to other sub-products of furfural.

By Judy Too

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