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Why your chapati is likely to grow thinner, smaller and costly as bread prices increase

By Mercy Orengo and Domnic Omondi | January 23rd 2021 at 00:03:00 GMT +0300

Maana Lifestyle Supermarket attendant arranges bread at Luanda town in Vihiga. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Your chapati is likely to grow thinner, smaller and more expensive. And your breakfast now costs more.

The rising price of wheat has made its products costlier. Almost all brands of bread have also recorded a price increase, with a 400-gramme loaf that has been retailing at Sh50 for the last four years now selling at Sh55.

A check at local supermarkets yesterday indicates that processed products that use wheat as an ingredient have adjusted their prices.

Items like smokies, sausages, and pastries have an increased price of between Sh10 and Sh300.

Godfrey Khalisia, who works with Kenchic, a poultry producer that operates in East and Central Africa, said the price of feeds and some of the processed meats have increased due to taxation adjustments.

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Paying import tax and meeting the increased price of wheat forces the manufactures to hike the cost of final products.

Nehemiah Marwa, a vegetable vendor in Nairobi’s Donholm estate said they are making massive sales from buyers who have been forced to return to traditional foods as a substitute to the buttered bread and other pastries that had been the norm on breakfast tables.

“We are now getting many customers buying sweet potatoes and githeri. They are giving us advance orders and we suspect it is because buying many loaves of bread for breakfast is too costly,” he said.

Traditional foods

He added that the increased demand has also caused a rise in price of traditional foods, especially for vegetable tubers.

“A heap of arrowroots that would cost less than Sh50 is now double the cost. Interestingly, people are still buying,” he said.

Naomi Agutu, who runs a children’s home in Soweto, said she had to cancel the orders she would make on bread weekly and look for a more affordable substitute.

“I was buying about 100 loaves of bread per day for the children to eat in the morning and evening when they come back from school.

“With the price increase, it greatly affects our budget,” she said, adding that she has now opted for food items like maize and cassava.

Peterson Kariuki, who has sold food near Kenyatta University for five years, says he has been losing clients since early this month when they started feeling the impact of the price increment.

His popular “chapati smokie roll”, that was loved by several college students is no longer getting as many customers. He tried selling a chapati for Sh15 up from Sh10, and the result was customers shifting to other options. 

“I started making the chapatis smaller so that I do not make losses,” he said. 

On social media sites, several consumers of bread complained on pages run by popular bakeries about how unaffordable bread has become for most families.

Stakeholders in the wheat sector say that wheat prices will continue going up because international prices have been rapidly increasing over the years.

“We import about 80 per cent of our wheat. When there is a global price increase, we have to feel it,” said Paloma Fernandez, CEO of Cereal Millers Association.

Kenyans’ appetite for wheat products has been increasing. [Courtesy]

The price of a tonne of wheat has increased by 30 per cent. It was about Sh25,000, but it is now going for Sh33,000, and this has affected the price of many wheat products.

Fernandez says unless the government lowers taxes, consumers will continue to bear a fair share of the costs.

As the price goes up, the Kenyans’ appetite for wheat products has been increasing.

Long gone are the days when chapatti, bread, mandazis and other wheat products were considered delicacies reserved for special celebrations like Christmas.

It is now common to find vendors standing by the roadside, selling wheat products.

Data from the ministry of agriculture shows the country’s consumption stands at 900,000 tonnes per year against an annual local production of 350,000 tonnes. A typical Kenyan would consume about 15kg of the cereal in a year 40 years ago. This has more than tripled to almost 50kg, according to government data.

Over the years, there has been a steady increase in demand for wheat, with Ukraine, Russia and South America being the main source of Kenya’s wheat imports.

Although the per capita annual consumption of maize is still high at 90kgs, it has plummeted from a high of 130kgs – or one-and-a-half bags per person – some 40 years ago.

This shows many Kenyans are moving from eating ugali as their staple and bringing in alternatives, with wheat products being among the most consumed.

Other commodities that have recorded a price increase include milk and cooking oil. 


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