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Fresh produce prices rise 20pc as dry spell persists in Kenya

By Xinhua | March 24th 2015
High yielding new French bean varieties which mature early, uniformly and lower costs of production, taken recently. PHOTO   ;   COURTESY

Kenya: The cost of fresh produce in Kenya has gone up by at least 20 per cent as a dry spell bites. Prices of vegetables, including cabbage, sukuma wiki and tomatoes, have increased in the past weeks, forcing consumers to dig deeper into their pockets.

Most of the fresh food produced in Kenya depends on rain or irrigation, with farmers struggling to keep up with demand as rivers dry up and rains delay.

At the beginning of this month, the Kenya Meteorological Department predicted the rains would start in the second week of March. However, this has not come to pass. Now, weather experts warn the country may suffer a food crisis in the coming months.

“If this dry spell persists in the coming two weeks, prices will go up further. We are having challenges getting vegetables and other fresh produce,” Grace Mutuku, who runs a vegetable stall in Nairobi’s Komarock said.

To help ensure prices remain relatively friendly, she has reduced the number of leaves in a bunch of sukuma wiki, rather than increasing costs. Further, high prices are slowly pushing tomatoes from household menus. At first, the dry spell that began in February was a boost to tomato production, but things have changed due to water scarcity. The quality of tomatoes in the market has also dropped.

Other items whose prices have increased are potatoes, traditional vegetables and fruits.

“Not many farmers have embraced technologies like greenhouses, which can help boost production, particularly of fresh produce. If the dry spell continues, Kenyans may not be able to buy food,” said Bernard Moina, an agricultural extension officer in western Kenya. — Xinhua

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