December 18th 2017

Top Stories / National

Kenyans staring hunger in the face as maize prices skyrocket

The problem has been compounded by an escalation of the price of beans, which has also been hit by rising prices, by up to 40 percent in the last two months.

By Priscillah Wanjirupwanjiru@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 16 Feb 2017 12:37 EAT

Cabinet secretaries Willy Bett (left) and Mwangi Kiunjuri at a recent briefing on the situation of hunger in Kenya.

The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation has expressed concern at the high prices of maize in Kenya. Maize is Kenya’s staple food and the dramatic increase in its prices will put stress on the nutritional needs of millions of households. FAO data indicates that maize prices increased in January by between 9-14 percent in most markets, but in Kenya the price went up by as much as 30 percent.
“Prices of maize in January were 20-30 percent higher than 12 months earlier in several markets,” the agency said, attributing the rise to below-average long rains. The agency said that sustained importation of maize from the neighboring Uganda has helped Kenya in containing further price increases. However, but this cushion may recede should Uganda ban maize exports after experiencing a drought on that side of the border as well.

Throughout the country, maize is currently selling at its highest price in three years. The wholesale price of a tonne of maize is currently in the range of Sh34,000 in Nakuru and Sh38,000 in Kisumu. The last time such high prices were reported in July 2015, when a tonne of the cereal was Sh36,000 in Eldoret and Sh38,000 in Nairobi. It went for lower in other markets.

The prices of maize are rising on sharply even as Kenya's production has been declining relative to a rising population. After initially insisting that Kenya had sufficient maize stocks, the cabinet secretary for agriculture Willy Bett hasrecently confirmed that the country faces a crisis and that the government will import the commodity.

With millions of Kenyans dependent on ugali and githeri, the demand for maize is usually high throughout the country. A 2kg of maize flour is retailing at Sh126 in most supermarkets in major towns in the country, up from between Sh95 and Sh105 in December. Unmilled maize is now retailing at Sh120 for 2kg in many towns.

The prevailing drought has affected farm production across the country, and at least 1.5 million Kenyans are currently at risk of starvation. The problem has been compounded by an escalation of the price of beans, which has also been hit by rising prices, by up to 40 percent in the last two months.

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