Pain for Kenyans as cost of living hits five-year high

Millions of Kenyans have had to squeeze their household budgets to afford basic commodities. [iStockphoto]

Kenyans will have to dig deeper into their pockets to purchase basic commodities as inflation hit a five-year high riding on high food and fuel prices.

Data released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) yesterday indicates inflation for the month of June hit 7.9 per cent, the highest since August 2017 when it was eight per cent.

"Relative to May 2022, prices of wheat flour-white, carrots and cooking oil (salad) increased by 12.7, 4.7 and 4.7 per cent in June 2022 respectively," said KNBS in its report.

"During the same period, prices of onion-leaks and bulbs and potatoes (Irish) dropped by 5.3 per cent and 4.8 per cent respectively."

The latest figures point to tough times ahead even as millions of Kenyans have had to squeeze their household budgets to afford basic commodities that have become more expensive compared to last year.

According to the KNBS, the average price for a litre of cooking oil had risen to Sh388 last month, a 51 per cent increase from Sh255 in June 2021.

And while a litre of kerosene retailed at Sh98.80 in June last year, the price has increased by 30 per cent to Sh128.90 this year.

In May, Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge said inflation, driven by food prices, could reduce in the near term as the rains pick up and some fast-growing commodities hit the market.

He said the government's efforts to moderate domestic prices including fuel subsidies and duty waivers on the imports of maize and fertilisers have helped cushion prices.

"But even against this backdrop, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) assessed that there is a clear and present danger of breaching the 7.5 per cent threshold in the next few months," Dr Njoroge said.

The government's threshold for healthy inflation figures is 2.5 per cent on the lower side and a ceiling of 7.5 per cent.

This is the first time in five years the ceiling has been breached.

Other commodities that have recorded a surge in pricing in the last 12 months include diesel and petrol which have seen the price per litre increase by 30 per cent and 25 per cent in the period under review. 

The rise in inflation coupled with the forthcoming elections and a prolonged drought are set to make it difficult for millions of low-income Kenyans to meet their basic needs.

In May, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FewsNet) warned that the number of people facing starvation in Kenya had increased from projections released earlier this year.

It said majority of the citizens are experiencing high food insecurity with the situation classified as critical in the Eastern and North-Eastern regions.

Several counties including Wajir, Mandera and Marsabit were classified as in need of emergency intervention over the next three months.

"In late April and early May, heavy rainfall events resulted in around average March-May cumulative rainfall in Mandera, northern Wajir, western Marsabit and eastern Turkana," said FewsNet in the drought report for Kenya.

"However, rainfall distribution was poor and as a result, households face another below-average or failed harvest and poor rangeland resource recovery, reducing access to food and income."

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