Kenyans will be forced to bear the burden of an increase in maize flour prices over the course of the festive season.
This is after cereal millers in the country increased the buying price of a 90kg bag of maize by Ksh500 to Ksh2,800 amid a biting shortage.
Three months ago, the price of a 90kg bag of maize was Ksh1,800.
This attracted protests from farmers across the country who complained that should the price remain the same, maize farming would be a loss-making venture.
However, despite the increase in prices and complaints by farmers, a majority of them had already sold their cereals at lower prices.
Two months ago, a 2kg packet of maize retailed at Ksh80, this has since increased to over Ksh100.
Experts, however, warn that the price of unga may be much higher heading into the Christmas season.
“Consumers should be prepared to pay more for flour as the cost of maize keeps on rising. The current price of Sh2,800 per 90kg bag means a 2kg packet will go for more than Sh120 in the next two months,” Kipngetich Mutai, chairman of the Grain Belt Millers Association (GBMA) stated.
The increase in maize prices has been pinned on cartels who have since infiltrated the market.
The cartel are said to have purchased the maize from farmers at lower prices beating the likes of the National Cereals Produce Board (NCPB) to the grains.
They then hoarded the maize, which has made it difficult for millers to acquire the cereals and have since been forced to pay much higher prices for the maize.
“We are staring at a disaster in the next six months as maize supply in the market deteriorates after most farmers sold out the grains during the harvest period at throwaway prices
“Most of the grains have been sold to millers and other traders after the government expressed unwillingness to buy the produce and instead introduced the Warehouse Receipt System where farmers would have to wait for long before receiving payment,” Ezekiel Kosgei, an Eldoret-based private land economist told the Nation.
According to reports, millers have opened buying centres in the North Rift are offering between Ksh2,800 and Ksh2,900 per 90kg bag and making payment on delivery as others purchase the produce at the farm-gate level in a rush to stockpile ahead of a looming shortage of the staple.
“The attractive prices being offered by millers and other traders come as a relief to the farmers who still have some maize to sell, as they need the money for personal needs including Christmas festivities, school fees and to invest in the next crop,” Leah Cheptoo from Moiben, Uasin Gishu County said.
Maize prices in Kitale, Trans Nzoia County, have increased from Ksh2,200 to ksh2,800 per 90 Kg bag and ksh2,900 in Kisumu.