An empty shelf at a supermarket located along Langata Road, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

An acute shortage of maize flour has hit Vihiga County two weeks after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a subsidy that would reduce the cost of Kenya's stable food.

Uhuru's announcement was expected to reduce a 2kg packet of flour by more than half to Sh100. However, both supermarkets and retail shops around the county do not have maize flour on their shelves.

Residents who spoke to the Standard at Chavakali and Mbale markets said they have been looking for the flour without success. In the few shops that have stocked the flour, they are selling it for up to Sh230 per 2kg packet.

They said the price of maize is also out of reach for many. Currently, 2kg tin of maize is selling between Sh150 to Sh180 in the area. And after buying the maize, one needs another Sh10 to mill it.

Vincent Zavani, a resident of Chavakali, said he has been going to the supermarket for the last four days hoping to purchase flour but it is not available.

"We were promised cheap flour but accessing the subsidized maize flour has been a nightmare for many Kenyans," said Zavani.

Zavani's is the same problem facing residents of Chavakali, Luanda, Mbale and Majengo. Most supermarkets did not have flour on their shelves on Saturday.

Villagers are currently harvesting maize from their farms and prefer using locally milled maize flour.

"We are hoping for a good harvest this season so we can sell the maize and buy other stuff that we need," said Godfery Aswani, a smallholder farmer from Kegondi.

Maize flour is also acutely scarce in Bungoma as supermarket shelves remain without the commodity. 

"It is a real struggle accessing the Sh100 flour that was promised to us by the President. In some stores, the commodity gets depleted as soon as new stocks are brought in. It does not take even 15 minutes before the maize flour shelves are empty again," said Fred Lubhangachi, a hotel owner in Bungoma town.

He said supermarkets have put a limit to the number of packets one can buy to ensure as many people as possible can access the flour.

"You cannot take more than two packets of flour in most supermarkets around town. They limit it to ensure as many people as possible get something,” he said.

Other traders in the town are selling the 2kg packet at Sh150 in defiance of the government order.