Families hit hard as food price hit all time high

Well wishers donating food in Kilifi County.The current drought situation in Kenya has led to scarcity of food and high food prices.Pictures:David Mbewa
Well wishers donating food in Kilifi County.The current drought situation in Kenya has led to scarcity of food and high food prices.Pictures:David Mbewa

The cost of living for most families has become unbearable since purchase of basic kitchen foodstuff is out of their reach due to exorbitant prices.

This is now seeing many households going without food for days as prices continue to increase. For instance, sukuma wiki (kales), tomatoes, flour, potatoes, spinach and maize grains have had their prices hit the roof.

The sky-rocketing food prices have placed inflation beyond tolerable levels for low income earners.

In January, Patrick Njoroge, Governor Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) warned that failure to deal with sky-rocketing food prices would push inflation beyond tolerable levels.

“We seriously need to look a little more at food inflation which we know is driven by other factors altogether,” Njoroge said.

He cautioned on the need for concern about dry weather conditions noting that the prices of vegetables such as sukuma wiki, cabbages and tomatoes will probably not come down in the next few months.

“On the contrary, it might continuously push inflation towards the higher end of the band if there is no attention paid to it,” reiterated Njoroge.

The prevailing dry weather condition has been blamed for having withered away vegetables and other greens in the farms. On the other hand, policymakers and the Government are partly to blame for failure to plan in advance despite earlier warnings by weathermen.

According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), February 2017 inflation stood at 16.5 percent, the highest

Pictures:David Mbewa

Pictures:David Mbewa

ever experienced since 2012. However, policy makers said this could be attributed to the prolonged dry weather condition currently being experienced in most parts of the country.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics figures stated overall inflation for February also surged past the regulator’s desired upper limit of 7.5 percent to 9.04 percent. This is a dire situation for many households especially those having at least four people with an average expenditure of KSh300 on a basic meal.

It means that such families will have to spend KSh1,500 more on its monthly budget or go without food for at least one week. Some have already been forced to cut costs of their budget expenditure by having one single meal per day.

A cross check in various open air markets and supermarkets in Nairobi indicates a general rise in food prices. For example, a kilogramme of sukuma wiki (kales) now retails at an average of KSh55 up from previous price of KSh30. This means it has gone up by KSh24 almost double what it cost February last year.

A two-kilogramme packet of maize flour currently retails at KSh126, with the cheapest brand up from Ksh104. This stands at KSh22 higher than it cost in the same period last year.

Mary Nekesa lives in the informal settlement of Kawangware, Nairobi and sells a variety of vegetables. She says sales have reduced and customers’ power of purchase is down. Many customers buy food in small quantities forcing traders to resort to uchumi ya kadogo (micro-economy sales).

Nekesa says micro-economy sales are booming since customers are sold foodstuff depending with what they have in their pocket. This allows customers buy food according to their income.

“The cost of living is very high yet people do not have money to buy food in large quantities, so our sales are in small quantities to suit customers’ taste and needs,” Nekesa explains.

“In fact the current inflation in the country should be declared a national disaster,” suggests Nekesa. She adds: “People are getting retrenched, salaries slashed, house rent and bus-fare hiked and food prices still going up,” Nekesa complains.

In Kibera, many are starving and this can be observed physically through weight loss in what is now referred to as ‘natural slim possible’. Most households cannot afford three meals a day but rely on God’s mercy for their daily provisions.

Yukabeth Moraa  says many families are relocating to the rural areas as they cannot cope up with the high standard of living in urban centres. House rent, water shortage and increased prices of paraffin and other forms of fuel a cause for the mass exodus.

“Even though in the village the situation could be worse due to low circulation of money, there are alternatives ways of survival,” says Moraa. She notes: “You don’t have to pay rent, firewood and water are available for free.”

Families are changing gender roles as many argue when desperate moments call for desperate measures. Men have taken up the role of buying food from markets something that was previously left to women. This is, they argue, is to enable them cut down on lavish spending and avoid impulse buying.

David Wasika who has taken up the role of shopping just to check on his budget says without proper planning it will be like swimming in a river full of crocodiles.

“The current inflation in the country is alarming. It has reached a point where are committing suicide due to the family burden. Nobody is even thinking of getting a baby let alone getting married,” Wasika says.

He alludes that in most families, men have taken up the responsibility of buying food to their wives to avoid quarrels of overspending. It is a difficult initiative but current situation pushes men to play the critical role.

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