TOUGH ECONOMY

Kenyans forced to skip meals to cope with inflation

In Summary

• The six items in the food basket  accounted for 6.25 per cent of the Consumer price Index (CPI) weight.

• The Central Bank of Kenya expects overall inflation to rise this year.

A shopper leaves Naivas Supermarket, Hazina on August 10,2017. / FILE
A shopper leaves Naivas Supermarket, Hazina on August 10,2017. / FILE

Most families in Kenya are forced to survive on one meal per day to cope with high food prices that raised inflation in April to 18-month high.

The monthly inflation data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows the country’s inflation rose to 6.58 per cent up from 4.35 per cent reported in March, highest since September 2017.

Kenyans who spoke to the Star yesterday revealed various survival tactics they are employing to cope in the tough economic times.  

Bernard* a security guard in Westlands said he is now surviving on bread and water and walks to work to save for a packet of maize floor that is currently retailing at Sh117 in most stores in Nairobi.  

"Ugali has become a luxury. I last ate it on Sunday. I survive on bread and water and walk daily from Kawangware to save enough for my family’s daily consumption. I have to leave Sh100 for green vegetables daily up from Sh70 in January,’’ he said.

Susan, a bank teller at Bank of Africa said she carries breakfast and lunch to work to cut dow her meal expenses. She used to eat at various food outlets in Westlands.

"I carry my ugali and tea to job. Food prices have gone up but revenues stagnated. I stopped saving in July last year. Loans are consuming 40 per cent of my salary. I no longer drive to work, fuel prices are scaring,’’ she said.  

Their concerns about the rising cost of both food and non food items are well captured in the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics monthly inflation figures released yesterday.

According to the statistician, drought witnessed in first three months of the year has caused an upsurge in the cost of foodstuff.

Sifted maize flour, kales, potatoes, loose maize grains and flour and tomatoes recorded increases of 29.82, 25.30, 19.27, 26.14, 15.90 and 15.31 respectively, in April compared to March 2019.

‘The six items alone accounted for 6.25 per cent of the Consumer price Index (CPI) weight,’’ KNBS said.

The cost of non food items like housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuel products increased by 0.93 per cent in April compared to March.

The transport index also increased by 0.86 per cent due to increase in pump prices

However, prices of sugar and other food items were observed to be lower in April compared to March.

The Central Bank of Kenya expects overall inflation to rise this year on low agricultural yields following sustained drought that has seen farmers delay planting.

The Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, however, projects inflation will remain within the government’s margin of 7.5 per cent as the food situation improves during the year.

However, Kenyans are staring at the possibility of continued rise in living costs as global fuel prices keep going up due to US sanctions against Iran oil.

Price per barrel rose to six-month high of Sh7,512 ($74) after US tightened sanctions on Iranian oil exports down to zero on April 24 to avoid global price disruptions, a move that has pushed up global fuel prices.

This is expected to have a trickledown effect on food and other basic commodities as manufacturers and importers pass the high bill to consumers.

Inflation Rate in Kenya averaged 9.59 percent from 2005 until 2019, reaching an all time high of 31.50 percent in May of 2008 and a record low of 3.18 percent in October of 2010.