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Consumers pay more for cereals as border shut

By Awal Mohammed | April 11th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Grace Njanja, a cereals trader, going about her daily business at Nyamakima cereals market in Nairobi on April 8, 2020. There is a shortage of cereals, pushing up prices. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

Kenyans will spend more money on food as prices of cereals continue to rise.

This has been occasioned by closure of borders by the government in a bid to arrest the spread of the coronavirus, which had infected 184 cases and 7 deaths in the country as of Friday.

Although the government had allowed transportation of foodstuff across neighbouring countries, the stringent measures employed at the border has seen fewer vehicles arriving with the commodity.

“We struggle to get the goods, we used to import the cereals from Tanzania but after the closure of the boarder we only receive one lorry in a day to share among us all,” said Mwanzio Nzenga, a cereals produce trader in Nairobi.

On March 16, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered that borders with Covid-19 affected countries to be closed and only cargo vehicles will be allowed into Kenya.

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In the directive, trucks are to transit in a cluster with a 20 kilometre stopover. This is meant to closely monitor the movement of every vehicle and that the crew is maintained at two.

Trucks coming into Kenya have to be convoyed by police officers to their destination and back at the border point, in an effort to ensure that no vehicle deviates from the initial prescribed route.

The cessation of movement in and outside the capital by the government has also not helped the situation.

Unlike in the past where cereal traders would purchase the commodity on credit directly from the owner, they have been forced to purchase on cash by middlemen as the owners have been locked out of the country.

Strategic Food Reserve

“We used to buy directly from the owner of the cereals, now we are forced to buy from middlemen who sell to us expensively because few truck are coming from Tanzania,” said Njanja.

A 90kg bag of green grams has hiked from Sh8,000 to Sh9,500, while a bag of rice now goes for Sh10,800 up from Sh9,000 while a bag of beans now trades at Sh1,350 from Sh1,230.

This comes a day after Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) acknowledged that the country has no maize stocks reserve, increasing fears that Kenyans will have to cough more money to purchase food.

“As we speak, we do not have maize in our stores. As far as we are concerned, we think that most of the maize being held by farmers has been bought. I doubt if we have any maize held by small scale farmers,” said SFR chairman Dr Noah Wekesa.

Kenya imports majority of its cereals from Tanzania, the country makes Sh27 billion annually in cross-border trade, while Tanzania bags Sh11 billion in trade but the figures are expected to drop as the coronavirus pandemic continues to bite.

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