Kenyans in different parts of the country went into panic buying on Wednesday as the first batch of government-subsidised maize flour hit shop shelves.
However, for the better part of the morning and early afternoon, the Sh90, two-kilogramme packets were yet to arrive in some major supermarkets and in a number of towns.
In Nairobi, Tuskys supermarket outlets, which appeared to be the only ones well-stocked with the cheap flour in the morning, started running out of the commodity in early afternoon due to the high demand.
Nakumatt outlets did not have the flour for the better part of the day, but in the afternoon officials announced via Twitter that they had received supplies.
Sensing the desperation and restlessness, millers assured consumers that the flour would be available in all stores and supermarkets in major towns, and attributed the poor supply to logistics.
ADJUST DISTRIBUTION SCHEDULES
“Some of our members have had to adjust their distribution schedules to take the contractual obligations between our members and particular supermarkets,” chairman of the millers association, Nick Hutchinson, said in a statement.
“We would like to clarify that the lack of maize flour in some retail chains does not in any way reflect a lack of maize flour in the country.”
Mr Hutchinson said millers expected the cheap flour to reach other stores by tomorrow, and in small shops and supermarkets upcountry by Sunday.
In Nairobi, there were long queues at the stores that had the maize flour in the morning.
Mr Moses Mwangi, a manager at EastMatt supermarket, said retailers had rushed to make their orders with the millers.
“As a result,” he explained, “those of us who made our orders late have been pushed behind the queue, so we’re still waiting for deliveries.”
The chain only had old stock of the commodity and was selling the Oryx brand at Sh135 and Hostess at Sh189.
Tuskys, the only supermarket in the CBD that stocked the Soko brand, had to restrict the number of packets each customer could buy.
At their Kenyatta Avenue branch, customers were allowed two packets while at their Imara branch the maximum was three.
BUY SIX PACKETS
But, even then, customers tried to outmanoeuvre the retailer by going from one store to another. Ms Linda Omolo, a resident of Lucky Summer in Baba Dogo, told the Nation at the Imara branch that she had been sent by her aunt to buy six packets. “I’ll have to go to another branch to pick the rest,” she said.
Asked why she needed to buy so many packets, she asked: “What if another shortage occurs or the price increases?”
At Naivas supermarket in the CBD, Mr Joseph Gitonga said they were still waiting for the government stock.
Some customers, like Mr Richard Chege from Juja, bought wheat flour instead, unaware that just a few metres away Tuskys had already replenished the staple that has been missing from most retail shelves for close to a week.
“We haven’t eaten ugali for a week in my house but chapati has been working just fine because then I save the money I would have used to buy bread for breakfast,” said Mr Chege.
In Nakuru, Tuskys sales coordinator Brian Kandie said they had reduced the price of old stock to Sh90, although they had not received any information or new stock from the suppliers.
“Normally, we get a credit note from the suppliers in case the market price suddenly changes. However, we are not sure whether that will happen,” Mr Kandie said.
However, other supermarkets, like Woolmatt and Gilani’s, had not lowered their prices. Mr George Ngugi, a manager at Woolmatt, said they had not received any communication from their suppliers.
In Mombasa, cheap flour had not hit the shelves by yesterday evening, and so the two-kilogramme packet was still going for between Sh140 and Sh150 in most supermarkets.
In Nyeri some of stores, such as Mathai Supermarkets, had the subsidised flour, but Naivas still had the more expensive stock which managers expected to clear in two days.
In Eldoret, cheaper flour was available in most outlets although high demand saw the shelves emptied before noon. Nakumatt, for instance, ran out of stock by mid-day.
“People have really bought a lot of Unga today and the number of shoppers is increasing since morning. We expect more to come,” an attendant at Tuskys said. The scenario was the same in Naivas outlets in the town.
Reporting by Pauline Kairu, Mohamed Ahmed, Reitz Mureithi, Marion Wambui, Irene Mugo, and Brenda Gamonde.