An ongoing dry spell in Kenya has pushed families to the edge as supply of various food items dwindle in both rural and urban areas leading to rise in prices.

Supply of maize, beans, milk, vegetables, tomatoes and onions, among other foods, has gone down drastically as drought affects production.

In Nairobi, a spot check in various fresh produce markets revealed the extent to which families are being squeezed.

Traders are selling a 2-kg tin of dry maize at 1.1 U.S. dollars, an increase from less than a dollar in mid last month.

The rise in cost of dry maize has pushed up the price of maize flour, which has risen to 1.2 dollars for a 2-kg packet, an increase of 0.10 dollars.

Maize is a staple consumed by millions in Kenya, where residents gobble up to 4 million bags each month, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Therefore, a slight increase in price affects thousands of families.

“Life is getting tougher and tougher each day,” Anzel Nyawiri, an office assistant at a government department, told Xinhua. “At 1.2 dollars, how many packets of maize flour can one buy?

“The cost of rice, arrowroots and even bananas have gone up, so we have no alternative. I wonder how we will survive in coming months,” she complained.

Trouble for the single mother of three, however, does not stop there as she has to dig deeper into her pocket to buy vegetables, like tomatoes and onions.

Weeks ago, a bunch of up to eight leaves of kales (sukuma wiki) was going for 0.05 dollars, but currently three leaves are sold at between 0.05 dollars and 0.10 dollars.

Onions and tomatoes, on the other hand, are going from 0.05 dollars each for the smaller ones to 0.19 dollars for the bigger ones.

“I used to spend at most 5 dollars on groceries which lasted my family of four a week but for the past three weeks, I have been spending between 8 dollars and 10 dollars. By the time the rains come, we may be starving,” said Rosemary Njeri, a businesswoman in Nairobi.

The government has blamed the maize shortage on farmers, who are hoarding the produce in anticipation of higher prices. On Tuesday, Agriculture secretary Willy Bett said the government is importing maize to increase supply.

Kenya’s inflation last December stood at 6.35 percent, down from 6.68 percent, but analysts expected a rise in the first quarter of 2017, pushed up by swelling food prices.

“We are projecting inflation in January to rise slightly to the range of 6.5 percent – 6.7 percent driven by a rise in food prices caused by the ongoing drought which is expected to last to mid-year, and an increase in fuel prices, which have pushed up the cost of energy,” said Cytonn, a Nairobi-based investment firm.

Weakening of the shilling due to global strengthening of the U.S. dollar will further add inflationary pressure in the East African nation by increasing the cost of imports, though it will remain within the government target annual range of 2.5 percent – 7.5 percent, according to Cytonn.

Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi, noted that the rising food prices would hit the urban and rural poor the most.

“In urban areas, hunger will soon start ravaging families not because there is no food to buy, but people can not afford. But this also does not mean the middle and upper income segments would be spared, they would have to reduce purchases,” he said.

He added that in rural areas, the situation could be worse as many are already starving due to lack of food. Enditem

Source: Bedah Mengo, Xinhua/


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