In Summary

  • In an attempt to bring down the cost of food, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich waived import taxes on maize and removed VAT taxes on bread and maize flour.  
  • A two-packet kilo of maize flour sold at between Sh142 and Sh187, depending on brand and the supermarket from which one buys.
  • “I am a consumer too, so watching these increases in price have been nerve-racking,” he said.

Kenyans have been forced to tighten their belts as the prices of basic goods, particularly food and fuel, continue to soar, new data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows.

Hard times bite as the cost of food, fuels, water and rent escalate, putting a strain on the budgets of the poor and middle class families.

The overall inflation rate in March stood at 10.3 per cent year-on-year — the highest in the last four years and 10 months, when it stood at 12.2 per cent. The Central Bank of Kenya prefers that inflation remain between a minimum of 2.5 per cent and a maximum of 7.5 per cent.

Inflation is the rate at which the prices of goods and services rise over time, resulting in money losing value. That means that with rising inflation, Kenyans spent more money to buy fewer goods in March compared to February.

With the food and non-alcoholic drinks index increasing by almost 19 per cent in March this year compared to March last year, Kenyans will continue to struggle to put food on their plate despite the tax waivers on maize grain and flour announced in this year’s Budget.

The cost of maize flour, maize grain, rice, potatoes, spinach, cabbages, milk, kerosene and diesel have risen all sharply, driving up the cost of living, a review of inflation data by Nation Newsplex shows.

In March last year, a two-kilogram- packet of sifted maize flour sold for an average price of Sh104. Last month, the same packet cost Sh132, a 28 per cent spike. The cost of a kilo of maize grain also rose by a quarter, from Sh41 to Sh52.

Kenyans spend the lion’s share of their income on food and drinks. For every Sh100 that a Kenyan spends, Sh45 goes to food and drink.

In an attempt to bring down the cost of food, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich waived import taxes on maize and removed VAT taxes on bread and maize flour.  

The move is expected to reduce the prices of these staples by 16 per cent if retailers pass on the tax break to consumers.

He also raised the lowest taxable income to Sh13,486 from Sh11,135 a measure that is expected to cushion lowest-income earners.

But as drought worsens, and given that this is an election year, Treasury’s welcome move is unlikely to significantly bring down the cost of living.

Earlier analysis by Newsplex shows that the economy has been more likely toslow downto a near standstill during multiparty election years than to grow or slow down slightly.

The price of Irish potatoes rose even more steeply. Last month, a kilo of potatoes cost an average of Sh98.42, representing an increase by a third from Sh74 in March last year. During the same period, the price of a kilo of spinach increased by 27 percent from Sh46 to Sh59.

Over the same period the cost of a kilo of sugar rose by 18 per cent from Sh113 to Sh133

The cost of a kilo of grade 2 rice also jumped 13 per cent from Sh101 to Sh114. The price of Grade 1 rice also went up by eight per cent to Sh194 from Sh180.

The price of a half-litre packet of fresh milk increased by six per cent from Sh53 to Sh57, while a litre of unpacketed fresh milk sold for Sh59, up eight per cent from Sh54.

Of the selected basket of goods, the increase in the average price of coriander (dania) was steepest. One hundred grams of dania increased 60 per cent, from Sh69 to Sh110.

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