OFFICIALS ALLAY FEARS

Food prices may increase if Covid-19 forces lockdown – expert

Government told to start stocking the strategic food reserve in case the situation worsens

In Summary

'If the President was to call for full quarantine or lockdown, prices of food items may go up because of the uncertainties. Right now, we should be concerned about how to make sure that the market continues functioning in the event of this'

 

Prices of basic food commodities will rise if the government puts the country into lockdown over the outbreak of coronavirus, experts warned on Thursday.

Timothy Njagi, a senior research fellow at the Tegemeo Institute said the government should start stocking the food grain reserve to be prepared in case the situation worsens. 

He spoke to the Star on the phone.

"If the President was to call for full quarantine or lockdown, prices of food items may go up because of the uncertainties. Right now, we should be concerned about how to make sure that the market continues functioning in the event of this,” Njagi said.

Prices of food commodities like tomatoes and potatoes have already increased due to the heavy rains the country experienced from October last year to January this year.

Tomatoes were selling for a high of Sh20 each while a bucket of potatoes increased from Sh450 to Sh800.

Njagi said farmers have maize but the government should ensure that it gets to the market and that millers can are able to access it on time to stabilise the price of unga.

“But as we are in unusual times so it is difficult to predict how things will work,” Njagi said.

Noah Wekesa, the chairman of the Strategic Food Reserve, said the current maize prices have been good with a 90kg bag retailing at between Sh3,000 to Sh3,200.

“We have not witnessed such good maize market prices before. Farmers have been enjoying good prices because there was no maize importation last year,” Wekesa said.

Kennedy Nyaga, chairman of the small scale millers under the umbrella of United Grain Millers Association said the demand for maize flour was low so there was no cause for alarm.

“Our concern is that Kenyans are buying so much maize flour but we are attributing this to the rains we have been experiencing so people have a lot of food to supplement. But the government should start preparing early so that we can stock the food grain reserve an ensure that we have enough just in case the coronavirus situation gets worse,” Nyaga said.

 

edited by peter obuya