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Costly burial: Ban pushes up cost of wooden coffins

By Standard Team | Apr 10th 2018 | 3 min read
By Standard Team | April 10th 2018
Emmy Jepchirchir at her coffin shop in Eldoret. Coffin makers have raised concern over the logging saying that it has affected their business. The prices of coffins has shot due to the lack of timber. 09-04-2018. [Kevin Tunoi]

When Robert Ayiro pledged to help his extended family buy a coffin last week, he knew the cost would be ‘the usual’ price.

Three months ago, Ayiro, as a member of a funeral committee for a colleague’s relative, had bought another casket and did not think the price had changed.

He went to the workshop in Huruma, Nairobi, but the new price took him by surprise.

“I had Sh20,000 but the trader told me he wanted Sh28,000. I tried another trader, but the price was even higher,” said Ayiro. He sought help from friends to raise the Sh8,000 deficit to have the coffin made in order to transport the body to Kisii for burial.

“The was an option of buying a coffin made from hardboard, which would have cost me Sh23,000. This was still high but the agreement with the family was one made from eucalyptus,” he said.  

Ayiro’s experience reflects what many bereaved families are going through, as the ban on logging takes effect.

Many have had to adjust their budgets as coffin makers adjust their prices.

Most of the dealers in coffins use high (HDF) and medium density fibre (MDF) boards but are ready to use timber, according to customers’ demands.

“Most of us prefer using boards instead of timber because it makes work easier and faster. But some clients consider boards weak and demand that we use timber. We charge something extra, but it is a negotiable fee, approximately Sh5,000,” said Bonny Wesonga.

In Kakamega, the prices of coffins have increased from Sh4,000 for an ordinary coffin to Sh7,500.

Speaking to The Standard Monday, Philip Mukwambo said the traders increased the prices because of scarcity of timber.

In Kisumu, many coffin makers say they have run out of wood as prices are hiked from Sh19,000 to Sh22,000 for an ordinary coffin, and Sh40,000 to Sh45,000 for the high-quality ones.

A survey in Uasin Gishu county revealed that the cheapest coffin without elaborate decorative features and partly made of plywood) is retailing at Sh8,000, up from Sh5,000.

The cost of furniture in most parts of the country has also gone up.

A spot-check across the country showed the price has gone up by more than Sh8,000, depending on the type of furniture and size.

For example, carpenters at Fedha estate in Embakasi East, Nairobi, were selling a five-by-six foot bed at Sh20,000, up from Sh12,000.

A cardboard that they used to sell at Sh25,000 is now going for Sh30,000.

[Report by Michael Chepkwony, Anyango Otieno, Silah Koskei, Nathan Ochunge and Mactilda Mbenywe]

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