This is the first time the price of maize flour is retailing above that of wheat, which traditionally sells at about Sh120.
Amid all the promises and action by the Government to put in place measures to contain the situation, the price of unga has this year snowballed to trade at an average of Sh3 more than wheat flour.
Experts are now warning that if left unchecked, the prices could hit the Sh150-mark by next month.
COMPARING PRICES: A shopper at a supermarket looks through different brands of maize flour on display. The price of unga has been on a steady increase since December 2010 when it retailed at between Sh60 and Sh70 for a 2Kg packet. Picture: File/Standard
Stephen Mutoro, the Secretary General of Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek), accuses cereal millers of increasing the price of maize flour by an average of Sh10 per month since the start of January.
"We are not only shocked but severely outraged that a 2kg packet of unga has risen by Sh70 in six months. We are concerned it will escalate further if no urgent and decisive measures are put in place to arrest the situation," said Mutoro.
Davis Adieno, the National Taxpayers Association (NTA) coordinator, said the increase demonstrates the insensitivity of the Government to the needs of its citizens.
"Where are the Government’s priorities if it can’t protect the taxpayers? We lend it our money in the form of taxes!" said Adieno.
The price of unga has been on a steady increase since December 2010 when it retailed at between Sh60 and Sh70 for a 2Kg packet.
This year, the price increased systematically in January and February to stand at Sh82 on March 28th and Sh89 towards the end of April.
The price took a huge leap to stand at Sh120 on May 27. By this week, shoppers had to part with Sh130 for the same commodity.
This means that between December last year and this month, the price of a 2kg packet of unga has risen by between Sh60 and Sh70, representing a 100 per cent increase.
A check this week around supermarkets in Nairobi showed that the 2kg packet of Jogoo brand was selling at about Sh130, while that of Soko Sh128, and Pembe stood at Sh136. The premium Hostess maize flour sold at Sh156, from Sh104 in April and Sh95 in March.
A similar packet of Chef wheat flour sold at Sh122, Exe Sh127, Pembe 129, and Ndovu Sh124. While unga prices leapt higher, those of wheat flour have remained almost steady.
Last week, Prime Minister Raila Odinga accused millers of working in cahoots with some farmers to hoard maize and flour to create an artificial shortage, so as to raise prices.
The Premier directed the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the matter, warning of dire consequences against those found culpable.
Yesterday, Cofek secretary general said the millers’ endless excuses to justify high prices have seen them continue exploiting consumers. "If it is not about duty waivers for imported maize, it is about weak shilling or local farmers failing to sell them maize. The truth, however, is that it is the millers themselves who buy maize and store them. They collude to fix prices, yet they are too quick to cry foul. Theirs are crocodile tears," he said.
However, Cereal Millers Association Chairman Diamond Lalji accuses farmers of hoarding maize as they wait for higher prices.
Mr Lalji said the first consignment of imported maize would only arrive in the country in the fist week of August, since the direction by Finance Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, has yet to be gazetted.
"Overall we have a Government that doesn’t care, MPs who are busy politicking instead of focusing on matters of national importance, lack of serious planning in concerned ministries and a citizenry that is laid back and does not fuss about the increasing cost of living. We are collectively responsible," said Adieno.
Analysts feel that the move by Uhuru to zero-rate duty on imported maize was aimed at – besides bringing in food – forcing the farmers to release their maize to millers since the prices of maize would fall.
Parliamentary Agriculture Committee Chairman, John Mututho, said farmers are hoarding about 5.1 million bags of maize, in speculation that the prices would increase.
The country’s strategic grain reserve is also said to have less than a million bags of maize, bringing the total to six million bags of maize.
As Minister for Agriculture, Eldoret North MP William Ruto kept calling on the Treasury to allocate funds to push the number of bags of maize to six million annually, from three million.
Hunger has been declared a national disaster, but the President is yet to appeal for food aid.
But the President on Wednesday directed monthly relief supplies be doubled to 200, 000 bags of maize, 30,000 bags of beans and 80,000 bags of rice.
But a new report released by the World Bank this month says the most vulnerable should be given money instead of food relief.
"Given Kenya’s success with ‘mobile money’, this is a more effective approach and one that would also help to build a more robust social protection system," recommends the report dubbed, Turning the Tide in Turbulent Times, Kenya Economic Updates, which the Bank is publishing every six months as a vehicle to analyses development trends in Kenya.
Courtesy: The Standard
Last Updated (Tuesday, 21 June 2011 09:50)