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Sukuma wiki prices hit the ceiling as consumers seek alternatives

By Erick Abuga | Published Tue, February 27th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 26th 2018 at 21:59 GMT +3
Susan Gesare a vegetable trader chops cabbage at Kisii municipal market, Kisii town is running short of green vegetables with vendors forced to source them from the neighboring Narok County where farmers embrace irrigation.(photo: Sammy Omingo/Standard)

The declining supply of vegetables in Kisii over the past five months has left the town's residents worried.

So dire is the situation that prices of vegetables available have shot up as the region, known for supplying fresh produce, grapples with decreasing production.

In some cases the prices have gone up by more than 400 per cent.

For the last two weeks Kisii town markets have not had kales (sukuma wiki). 'Kienyeji' vegetables, popular in the region, are also in short supply.

The cost of a bag of sukuma wiki weighing between 60kg and 70kg has shot up from Sh800 to Sh3,500 over the last two months.

Schools have not been spared either.

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School menu

Nyabururu Girls Principal Joyce Orioki has been forced to change the school menu.

“We have totally been unable to get any supply and resorted to cabbage and beans, however expensive,” she said.

The vegetable shortage has also forced the administration of Nyamagwa Boys Secondary School to change students' diet.

James Madhea, the school's principal, told The Standard that the shortage has adversely impacted their budget plans as they have had to look for alternative food items for students. "We fear the situation is likely to continue in the coming weeks because we have not seen any progress," said Mr Madhea.

Unlike in other regions, locals have not embraced irrigation, explaining the current shortage of vegetables.

Traders are now 'importing' vegetables from Kilgoris town in the neighbouring Narok County as the region continues to feel the effects of global warming leading to the drying up of rivers.

A majority of farmers in Kilgoris practice large scale irrigation.

The most indigenous vegetables include spider plant (sagaa or saget), black night shade (managu), pumpkin, cowpeas (kunde/egesare) and vine spinach (nderema).

Containing high levels of Vitamin C, sagaa is the most common and is grown both in large scale and in gardens.

A sack of managu is now selling at Sh7,000, up from Sh3,000 four months ago. Traders at the Kisii Market are selling a small package at Sh50. A small cabbage now goes for Sh70 in Kisii town.

Middlemen

Diminishing land sizes and middlemen, who are the big beneficiaries in the value chain, have also affected the supply of green vegetables.

Mary Oyunge, a trader in Kisii town market, said they have been left with no option but to double the prices of vegetables.

“We have hit the highest market price but still the demand is too huge. Some families have resorted to other meals including matoke,” she said

She said the region is yet to embrace modern farming technologies such as green houses and irrigation.

Major hotels in the town are also selling a plate of sukuma, which they previously gave customers for free, at Sh70.


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