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Rice prices shoot up in Mwea as demand soars

By Joseph Muchiri | March 23rd 2020

Rice traders wait for buyers at a rice mill in Mwea area of Kirinyaga County. [Joseph Muchiri, Standard]

The price of rice in Mwea area of Kirinyaga County has shot up due to high demand by customers, who are now engaged in panic-buying over the covid-19 pandemic.

A spotcheck at Wang'uru town, where a dozen rice mills and hundreds of rice traders sell their produce, revealed vibrant trading activity as customers checked in en masse to buy the produce.

A kilogramme of the popular aromatic pishori rice, which last month was selling at Sh120, is now selling at between Sh130 and Sh150.

A trader, Beatrice Wangechi, said demand for the commodity was at an all-time high and if it continues that way, the price will rise even further.

"We were experiencing slow business just two weeks ago, but that has since changed and we are receiving more customers. Our stocks keep depleting faster and at times customers queue waiting for us to mill paddy, which they buy immediately," she said.

Another trader, Hannah Muriithi, said they suspect customers were panic-buying rice in bulk to store it in case the government announces a total lockdown.

Ms Muriithi said some customers prefer paddy rice (unprocessed), which can last for a long time so that they can mill it a little at a time for their consumption.

"Business is booming for us now after slow trade early this year. While traders and farmers celebrate good profits, we are anxious that the long-term impact of the disease on the economy will affect us all," she said.

The hygienic measures to keep away the disease have been embraced in rice mills and shops in Mwea, with water and soap being provided in plenty.

Muriithi said they now insist on customers sanitising or washing their hands before entering their premises.

And after receiving bank notes from customers and giving change, she said they immediately wash their hands with soap and water to keep off the infectious disease.

The same hygienic measures have been adopted in all markets and public places in Kirinyaga County.

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