Scrap metal ban: Box prices spike as artisans transfer pain to parents

Alphonce Onyango paints boxes made of scrap metal at Kibuye market in Kisumu County on April 6, 2022. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Jua kali artisans have increased the prices of metal boxes as parents prepare to take their children to Form One.

From Mombasa to Kisumu, the artisans increased the prices by Sh500 for each box.

The industry has remained in limbo since January 20 when President Uhuru Kenyatta  placed a moratorium on the scrap metal trade, which he said was aimed at stemming vandalism of infrastructure.

His statement came following the collapse of a number of electricity transmission towers, including two in Nairobi’s Embakasi area. Interior CS Fred Matiang’i in March said the lifting of the moratorium was pegged on regulations as well as fresh vetting of scrap metal dealers.

Mombasa iron vendors, led by Joseph Njue, yesterday said they were forced to increase the prices to compensate for the high cost of raw materials from hardware dealers.

He said a metal box that previously cost Sh800 now goes for Sh1,300.

Mr Njue said the prices wouldn’t have gone higher if the scrap metal dealers were allowed to sell what they have in stores.

He said the popular metal boxes used by students which cost Sh1,000 last year were now retailing at Sh1,500 while the jumbo iron boxes which cost Sh3,000 were now Sh4,500.

“Most of our customers are complaining that the boxes are expensive. For example, a medium iron box which would go for Sh2,000 last year is now Sh2,500.”

Njue continued: “We export some of these jua kali products made from scrap metals which have also been earning the country foreign exchange.” 

Mr Peter Nyaga said most of the dealers have been given notices to vacate their rented houses and shops.

The dealers said they were being punished for the mistakes of a few people who vandalised electricity transmission towers. “Those who were involved should be punished individually,” Mr Nyaga added.

According to him, there are some powerful scrap metal tycoons influencing government decisions that hurt small-scale traders. Mr Njeru said most of them had paid licences ranging from Sh250,000, Sh150,000 and Sh50,000.

“We are ready to follow what the government wants us to do but we should be allowed to sell the scrap metals in our shops to help jua kali artisans,” he said.

In Kisumu, jua kali artisans said they use scrap metal to make 80 per cent of their products such as metal boxes, jikos, steel doors, and cooking pans, among others.

Mr Fredrick Okumu said he buys raw materials from hardware shops that charge highly. “Buying an iron sheet to make a school box costs me close to Sh1,400 while the standard selling price is Sh1,500.”