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November 20, 2018

Higher food prices due to drought, shortage

Packets of maize and wheat flour in a supermarket /FILE
Packets of maize and wheat flour in a supermarket /FILE

Kenyans are paying more to put food on the table due to the raging drought and a cutoff of grain imports from neighbouring countries, the National Drought Management Authority has said.

This has triggered a drastic increase in food prices, pushing up the country’s overall inflation to 6.99 per cent in January from 6.35 per cent in December last year. 

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data shows the cost of selected foods rose 1.66 per cent in January from 1.31 per cent in December. The price of flour hit a five-year high last month.

“Current prices are 10 to 25 per cent above their five-year average and are expected to continue rising. In the marginal agricultural markets, retail maize prices have also been on an upward trend since October 2016 due to low supply,” the Authority said in a statement.

“The poor performance of the short rains crop means that most households will not have stocks from their own production and will, therefore, rely on markets.”

The average price of a kilo of maize was selling at Sh41.08 in December 2016 and has risen to Sh46.41 this year. A kilo of beans has gone up from an average price of Sh130 to Sh133 this year.

A two-kilo packet of maize flour increased to Sh120 last month from Sh115 in December, while that of wheat flour is retailing at Sh132 up from Sh130.

The NDMA says wholesale maize prices in urban markets of Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret and Mombasa rose by up to 12 per cent between November 2016 and January 2017.

 “Given the low supply, retail maize prices in these markets are expected to increase through 2017. While current prices are near their five-year averages, they are likely to rise above these beginning this month.”

Kenya has traditionally imported grains from Uganda and Tanzania to bridge deficit, but Tanzania last November restricted export of maize, while Uganda does not have enough supplies for exports after a poor harvest last season. Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta banned maize exports due to the drought which has reduced the grain reserves.

 Uhuru said stern action will be taken against those found exporting grain or hoarding stocks in order to sell at inflated prices during the dry season.

''We will not allow any trader to buy maize in large amount so as to store and eventually cash in following the ravaging drought in the country,'' he said on January 20.

Kenya, which consumes 29 million bags of maize every six months, plans to import maize from Mexico to ease the current supply shortage. 

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