The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the local arm of Swiss company Buhler Group have launched a compact mobile mill to help establish a commercially viable small-scale maize milling sector in South Africa.
"This is a game-changer. It will introduce new technology to bring new players into the sector," the DTI's Garth Strachan said at the launch of the mill in Johannesburg on Friday.
Designed by the Buhler Group, the two-ton per hour Isigayo Compact Mill comes pre-assembled in two containers, can be installed quickly and easily, requires minimal training to operate, and has a low start-up cost. It is targeted at small and medium millers as well as commercial maize farmers, small farming communities, entrepreneurs, governments and NGOs.
The new mill is in line with the small-scale maize milling initiative which forms part of the government's Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP). The initiative aims to introduce competition into a highly concentrated sector, to promote industrialisation, and to improve food security in the country by reducing the cost of maize meal by at least 20%.
In December, the government launched the small-scale Kuvusa Maize Mill outside Durban, and announced plans to open more small-scale mills in rural locations in 2013.
Maize is the most important crop in South Africa, as it is both the major feed grain and staple food for the majority of the population.
According to the DTI, up to 37% of the consumer price of maize meal is accounted for by transport and logistics costs, with maize being grown in rural areas and transported to urban and peri-urban areas for milling before being transported back to rural consumers.
Speaking at Friday's launch, Strachan expressed the government's appreciation to Buhler for having expanded their operations in South Africa, saying this represented a vote of confidence in South Africa.
"The production sector in the South African economy is a priority for this government," Strachan said, adding that foreign direct investment into the country's manufacturing sector was robust, while a large proportion of the R12.5-billion in tax incentives granted by the DTI over the last two years had gone to the agro-processing sector.
Buhler Group CEO Calvin Griender said the Isigayo mill would not only create jobs, develop skills and provide affordable and improved nutrition, but would also empower and generate income for entrepreneurs and existing small-scale millers.
During Friday's launch, Buhler and the Foundation for African Business and Consumer Services (Fabcos) signed an agreement that will see Fabcos buying 24 of the new mills.
Fabcos deputy president Phillip Usiba said after the singing that a new company, Homegrown, would provide start-up millers with a constant supply of maize while undertaking to buy their maize meal from them.