Kenyans dismayed by high flour prices

Maize flour at a supermarket along Muindi Mbingu Street in Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The price of unga (maize flour) remained the same one day after the government announced a subsidy plan to lower cost of the staple food.

Kenyans who had eagerly flocked to supermarkets to purchase the commodity expressed their disappointment at the lack of change.

According to the government, flour was to retail at Sh100 from Sh230 for the next four weeks.

But despite this grand pronouncement, Machakos residents could not believe their eyes when they walked into supermarkets only to find the sticker prices on the shelves had not changed.

"How can the government take us for granted yet we had celebrated and praised it for the move?" asked one disappointed shopper.

But shop owners maintained that it was not immediately possibility to reduce prices given that the current maize flour in stock had been bought for more than the proposed Sh100.

"The truth is that prices could not have been adjusted immediately considering the costs at which we had bought the flour," said one shopkeeper. While the traders assured that prices will fall once they clear their old stock, this did little to assuage the confused shoppers.

"We thought it would have worked out just like fuel prices that when reductions are announced they take effect immediately after midnight," said a casual worker who revealed that he had left work early to buy several packets of flour for his family.

The Machakos residents pleaded with government to urge retailers to reduce prices.

The disappointment spread to the country’s capital, Nairobi, with some citizens saying that the move was politically motivated. A boda boda rider in the central business district said politicians were toying with Kenyans.

"The announcement to reduce the prices was made but things are still the same. This is another tactic by politicians to get us to pick sides,” he said.

Benson Oluoch, a resident, said he did not know how he would face his family after the high prices spoiled his plans to buy the flour.

"I was expecting to walk out of here with at least four packets for my family that is eagerly waiting at home, but I feel cheated,” said Mr Oluoch as he pensively stared at the supermarket shelves.

Maize flour continued to retail at between Sh170 and Sh200 for a two-kilogramme packet in major retail shops and supermarkets in Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia and Vihiga counties yesterday.

Traders interviewed said they were keen to clear the old stock first before reviewing the prices.

"I purchased the stock you see around at Sh1,950 per bale and it will not make economic sense to sell it at Sh100 per 2kg packet. The prices will remain as they are until everything is sold out, however long that will take because I must recover my money,” said Mercy Anunda, a retail trader in Kakamega town.

[Renee Were, Victor Nzuma, Sharon Wanga and Juliet Omelo]