The pinch that Kenyans have been feeling over skyrocketing prices of food continues to get worse as people find their money buying less and less commodities.
A spot check by the Nation across the country shows that prices of maize meal and sugar are on an upward trend despite the interventions announced by the Jubilee administration to deal with the situation.
This is even as Dr Richard Lesiyampe, the Principal Secretary at the State Department of Agriculture, on Saturday said that by the end of the month, 990,000 bags of 90kg maize will have been imported, which will be a step towards meeting the monthly consumption of sifted maize meal by Kenyans that stands at 1.5 million bags.
Dr Lesiyampe waded into the controversy surrounding the importation of maize, saying the State had no aim of making a profit.
“All maize being imported into the country is by private millers, and not the government,” he said in a statement.
“The importation is not a preserve of cartels as claimed but it is open to any Kenyan business person who can undertake importation,” he said.
However, Nasa coalition leader Raila Odinga said the Jubilee administration is hurting Kenyans with its policies.
“Despite importing 300,000 bags of maize from Mexico, it has not solved Kenyans’ problems. If elected, the Nasa government will save Kenyans. In our first 90 days in office, we will show them how to govern the country,” Mr Odinga told mourners at the burial of Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu’s mother Rebecca Nasimiyu in Bungoma.
In Dr Lesiyampe’s estimation, Kenya will have a stable supply of maize in September.
“By September it is expected that six million bags will have been imported and this will be enough to resolve the maize crisis in the country,” he said.
Before that is achieved, Kenyans continue to carry the heavy weight of rising prices.
In Kisumu on Saturday, supermarkets said they were limiting the number of packets of sugar and maize flour that a customer could purchase.
“The price of unga and sugar is high but we have not experienced a decline in purchase. We have to limit the number of packets a customer can buy because if we fail to do so, then many people will miss the commodities because of the high demand,” said Mr Pascal Wabuke, the manager of Khetias Supermarket’s Kisumu branch.
His sentiments were echoed by Mr Dominic Osiche, the manager of Choppies Supermarket in Kisumu, who said that a decline in supply of the commodities was behind their high prices and restriction.
“We are limiting the number of packets a customer can purchase because we are experiencing a decline in supply. This is also why the prices have continued to rise,” said Mr Osiche.
In Mombasa, a 2kg maize flour packet that cost Sh140 two weeks ago is now selling at Sh170 within Kiembeni Estate. The general retail price in Mombasa is between Sh170 and Sh200.
A spot check on major supermarkets Nakumatt, Tuskys and Naivas in Kisii town revealed that some commodities like sugar were missing on the shelves.
At Naivas Kisii, a 2kg packet of Jogoo maize flour was selling at Sh170 and it was the only available brand. Sugar, however, was nowhere to be seen on the retailer’s shelves.
Naivas branch manager Evans Omwanza said the supermarket had run out of maize flour and sugar for close to a week.
Mr Omwanza, however, said that they have been promised sugar by their main suppliers, Sony Sugar, and they are expecting it any time.
“We have also ordered two other brands of maize flour, Pembe and Soko, so that we don’t experience another shortage as well as ensure a steady flow of customers,” said Mr Omwanza.
At Tusky’s Supermarket in Kisii, maize flour prizes have shot up steeply, with a 2kg Jambo flour packet costing Sh170, up from Sh157 two weeks ago. A 2kg packet of Tuskys and Mara brands of sugar costs Sh375.
The prices are, however, slightly different at Nakumatt as Kabras costs Sh420 and Sony sugar Sh440. Jogoo maize meal, also the only maize flour brand at Nakumatt Kisii, was selling at Sh180.
In Nyeri, most products had gone missing from the shelves or the prices had shot up alarmingly. For sugar, only one brand, Kabras Sugar, is available in 1kg packets only, selling at Sh175.
Nasa co-principal Moses Wetang’ula, speaking at the same function where Mr Odinga spoke, said Jubilee was ruining the country. “They are running a bandit economy … they don’t want to mind the problems facing Kenyans, Nzoia and Mumias sugar are at the brink of collapsing yet they are not doing anything to sustain it.”
By Elvis Ondieki, Titus Oteba, Daniel Nyassy, Elgar Machuka, Nicholas Komu and Victor Otieno.