15 January 2018

Kenya: No Respite for Poor Families As Millers Warn Unga Prices to Go Up

Photo: File photo/The Nation
Workers shell maize at a farm.

Maize flour prices will soar to a new high of Sh200 per 2kg packet by the end of March, small-scale millers have predicted.

Speaking to the Nation on Monday, Mr Peter Kuguru, the chairman of the United Grain Millers Association, which represents small millers, said that a mix of factors would be responsible for the great increase in the price of flour which is currently at about Sh115 on average for a 2kg packet.

HARVEST

"The harvest from the North-Rift is about 1.8 million bags of maize which was bought by the government and this supply will be exhausted by the end of February. One bag is already going for more than Sh3,000. Some maize will be imported from Uganda and Tanzania, but this will not be enough," Mr Kuguru said.

He added that La Nina, the lack of rainfall that has been foretold by the meteorological department, will also play a part in the rise of flour prices.

The above factors will increase the demand for the flour, which will in turn raise the price.

Mr Kuguru said that he hopes the government will step in once again to cushion the citizens from the very high prices and prevent an "unga revolution".

Principal Secretary for Agriculture Richard Lesiyampe had said last week that he was confident that the grain supplies would be sufficient to last Kenyans until the next harvest, and the government would not need to intervene.

SUBSIDY

He had said that the highest price that the flour should go for is Sh115, following the end of the government subsidy programme.

The National Cereals and Produce Board ( NCPB) is faced with impending shortage of funds as it used the Sh7.1 billion it was allocated by the government to buy 2.4 million bags this year to replenish its Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) stocks.

The board is remaining with an estimated Sh1.3 billion after it purchased 1.8 million bags of 90kg of maize worth Sh5.8 billion with long queues of farmers delivering the crop to buying centres in the North Rift region, the country's food basket.

"We have paid Sh3.68 billion and additional Sh0.5 million has been released to ease the Sh2 billion balance for maize already delivered to our stores countrywide," said Newton Terer, NCPB Managing Director.

A spot check by the Nation revealed long queues of farmers delivering produce to the NCPB stores in readiness for this season's planting and to raise funds for personal needs.

SURVEY

The survey further indicates that most of the large scale farmers in the region were still harvesting the crop, a process that is likely to extend to next month.

"Some of the farmers who are still harvesting the crop will be faced with market challenges of selling the produce at competitive rates," said Mr Samuel Mutai from Moi's Bridge, Uasin Gishu County.

The NCPB is offering Sh3,200 per 90kg bag of maize which above the Sh2,600 being offered by middlemen.

But the maize farmers on Monday petitioned the government to allocate additional funds to NCPB terming the Sh7.1 billion as inadequate to mop up the remaining crop.

The middlemen are offering Sh 2,600 as farmers rush to sell the produce to pay fees for their children and meet personal needs.

Some cartels purchase the crop as low as Sh1,800 from Uganda and blend with the local produce before selling at local markets at exorbitant prices.

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