Poor rainfall, hoarding, global inflation and war in Ukraine are some of the reasons maize flour prices are high in Kenya according to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The president said it was strange that a few months or weeks to general elections in Kenya, maize flour prices usually shoot up.
Kenyatta, who addressed the nation from State House, Nairobi on Wednesday, July 20, said the price of a 2-kiolgramme packet of maize flour retails at Sh205 today.
The price, he stated, was a sharp hike from Sh100 a few months ago.
He attributes the price increase to artificially-created shortage and greed by a section of the maize millers.
“The national question we must pose from this trend is this: is it a coincidence that we have ‘unga crisis’ just before every election? Is this the result of a market-dynamic or is it a deliberate outcome? This question must be posed and put to rest,” he said in his State of the Nation address.
He said in the run-up to the March 4, 2013, General Election, the price of 2-kg packet of maize flour shot up from Sh70 to Sh130.
The hike, he said, also happened in 2017, when the price of 2-kg pack of maize flour rose from Sh100 to Sh189.
The president said hoarders, who artificially create the shortage towards elections, are partially to blame for the maize crisis.
“Even whereas the increase in price is also affected by drought and other external factors, their (maize millers and traders) motivation for profits must be tempered by a reasoned level of social ethics,” said the Head of State.
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“You can make profits and exercise responsible business practices, all at the same time.”
Kenyatta also said poor rainfall, inflation and Covid-19 effects have contributed to the maize shortage.
“This situation has been compounded by other preceding disasters, including a desert locust invasion in 2019, the effects of Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 and the disruptions in the global supply chain of food and farm inputs following the Ukraine-Russian war,” he said.
“As a result, the number of vulnerable households in Kenya has increased tremendously, and the cost of basic food items has risen beyond the reach of many families.”
Kenyatta warned elective seat-seekers against politicising unga prices, saying the high cost of living is more of a global issue than a leadership-engineered crisis.
“It is shocking to politicise the misery of the vulnerable. But it is more distasteful to gain political capital out of the sufferings of the vulnerable without offering solutions.
“Who suffers from this mischief? If the politician gets his votes out of it and the miller gets their profit, what does the common mwananchi get? And in the end, who carries the burden of this mischief? The common mwananchi, of course!” he said.
In efforts to manage the cost of unga in the country, the president capped the maximum retail price of 2-kg packet of maize flour countrywide at Sh100.
Kenyatta said his government will pay Sh105 per 2-kg packet of maize flour in subsidy.
The president also announced suspension of Railway Development Levy and Import Declaration Fee on imported maize.
Both the subsidy programme and suspension of levies last indefinitely.