Uhuru's subsidy pushes unga price down to Sh90

By Moses Michira | Wednesday, May 17th 2017 at 00:00
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These Kenyans were spotted at Afraha stadioum in Nakuru carrying maize flour on their head during the NASA political rally on May 15,2017 . Perhaps they wanted to NASA principals led by Raila Odinga to pressurise government to deal with the skyrocketing price of Unga in the country. [PHOTO:KIPSANG JOSEPH]

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday took drastic steps to reduce food prices by launching a Sh6.5 billion subsidy programme for maize.

Consumers are expected to enjoy the short-term relief of cheap unga at Sh90 for a two-kilo packet until July 31.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett announced the new measures last evening, possibly helping to alter the narrative of high unga prices as a campaign topic.

Public anger

It is expected that the measures will lower the cost of living and help tame public anger at the Jubilee government over expensive food.

Urban households that mainly consume packaged unga will reap the benefits immediately, with the relief expected to gradually cascade to the unprocessed maize segment.

"Subject to availability, we expect that the commodity will be available in stores starting Wednesday till the weekend," Mr Bett said yesterday. At least 20 of the biggest millers will be involved in the programme, he added.

Mr Bett spoke a week after the National Assembly converged to discuss the soaring cost of food, which has handed the Opposition coalition ammunition with less than three months to the General Election.

MPs approved the planned interventions even though the amendments in government spending plans, through a supplementary budget, have yet to be compiled by the National Treasury.

Unga prices had shot up to a record high of Sh164 per two-kilo packet.

And last weekend, NASA taunted President Kenyatta over the soaring cost of food, saying costly maize flour was reason enough for the country to vote out Jubilee come August 8.

It now appears Mr Kenyatta was crafting a scheme to pull the rug from under the Opposition's feet.

First, he allowed duty-free importation of maize, milk powder, and sugar – whose prices are still at historically high levels.

He then instructed the National Treasury to draft a supplementary budget through which the subsidy programme on maize would be executed.

"The President will send fresh measures to Parliament through the supplementary budget to address drought and food issues," said State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu.

It is expected that the Sh1.6 billion allocated for the Strategic Grain Reserve will be moved entirely to the subsidy programme, Permanent Secretary Richard Lesiyampe said, with additional funds being drawn from elsewhere.

Mandarins at the National Treasury expect that the supplementary budget will be finalised before the end of May and will give a glimpse of what spending programmes and projects will be frozen.

Bett said millers would buy imported maize at Sh2,300 per 90-kilo bag. Five million bags are to be imported, according to estimates by the Agriculture Ministry. 

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