Unga subsidy likely to end this week — memo

Consumers have queued to buy unga, often limited to one or two packets per person

In Summary

• Subsidised 2kg packet of maize flour sells for Sh100, down from Sh205, Sh250 for 5kg packet for Sh250, 10kg pack for Sh490.

• Subsidy programme had window of four weeks and is likely to end this week, unless it's extended.

An almost-empty shelf of maize flour in a supermarket (left) and a trolley packed with packets of subsidised unga by a shopper at a supermarket in Thika Town.
PLEASE EXTEND: An almost-empty shelf of maize flour in a supermarket (left) and a trolley packed with packets of subsidised unga by a shopper at a supermarket in Thika Town.

The National Maize Meal subsidy programme is likely to end this week, unless it is extended.

Despite an internal memo seen by the Star on ending the programme, Agriculture PS Francis Owino told a press briefing on Monday the programme was still on and the situation is being monitored.

There was no immediate explanation for the apparent contradiction.

On July 20, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the Sh8 billion Fifth Stimulus Programme covering supply and distribution of maize meal countrywide.

The subsidy aimed at helping lower the cost of living for vulnerable households following the high cost of living.

Under the subsidy, a two-kilogramme packet of maize flour retails for Sh100, down from Sh205; a 5kg packet sells for Sh250 and a 10kg packet for Sh490.

The subsidy programme was to run for four weeks and is likely to come to an end this week unless it is extended.

Many Kenyans have been struggling to buy the Sh100 maize meal due to lack of the commodity in the retail market.

Consumers have had to queue to buy the unga, which is limited to two 2kg packets per person.

A spot check by the Star on Tuesday showed that in many supermarkets, only a few premium brands such as Amaize, Hostess and Raha are available. They are selling for Sh230 to Sh250 per 2kg packet.

An internal memo by Agriculture CS Peter Munya, dated August 12, was addressed to his PS and seen by the Star. It said the Agriculture ministry had suspended the Sh100 unga subsidy.

But Agriculture PS Owino said the subsidy programme was continuing.

The PS spoke to the media while giving an update on the subsidy programme at Kilimo House.

The memo said due to inadequate exchequer releases from the National Treasury, the Maize Flour Subsidy programme has been suspended with immediate effect.

"The purpose of this memo therefore, is to direct that you suspend the above programme immediately and prepare a comprehensive closure report for my review as soon as practical,” the memo read.

On August 1, Agriculture PS Owino said they have started paying millers who have signed up to participate in the subsidy programme.

He said the Ministry so far has received Sh325 million invoices from 128 millers.

“Receiving and processing invoices for payment commenced on July 26 and continues ...Sh160,920,425.75 payments have been processed as at this morning,” Owino said.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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