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April 19 - 24, 2013


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Cost of fresh produce rises in
Nairobi as rains disrupt supply

The rains have damaged roads making it difficult for
farmers and middlemen to reach farms and markets

SPECIAL REPORT BY XINHUA Correspondent Bedah Mengo

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The price of fresh produce in Kenya has jumped up due to heavy rains that are pounding various parts of the East African nation.

The rains have disrupted transport activities cutting off smooth supply of fresh produce from farms to markets. This has led to rise in prices of fresh food produce that include tomatoes, onions, sukuma wiki (kales) and fruits.

Data from various markets in the East African nation indicated the cost of fresh food items has increased by between 20 percent and 50 percent in the past weeks as rains intensify.

Traders blamed the rise to shortage of produce occasioned by heavy rains, which have disrupted transport activities.

The rains have damaged roads making it difficult for farmers and middlemen to reach farms and markets. In some areas, the rains have destroyed crops on farms making farmers incur losses.

“Transport has become a very huge problem for farmers and middlemen because of the rains. They cannot access farms since in some places the roads have been cut off. Those who reach farms have to incur heavy expenses,” Fred Gathithu, who grows a variety of horticulture crops at a farm in Juja on the outskirts of Nairobi, recounted on Monday.

Gathithu noted prices of fresh produce have been affected in two folds.

“Some of the roads have been washed away cutting off supply from farms leading to shortages. On the other hand, transport costs have increased since the roads are bad. This has subsequently led to rise in cost of transport and thus food items, “ said Gathithu, who supplies tomatoes, onions and kales to traders in the east of the capital.

A 64 kg box of tomatoes in various towns across the East African nation is currently retailing at an average of 80 U.S. dollars, up from up from 60 dollars before the start of the heavy rains.

Prices of the commodity in some towns in Kenya rise to up to 105 dollars. Areas hard hit by the high price of tomatoes, according to data from Ministry of Agriculture and other institutions, are Mombasa, Nairobi and Kisumu.

In Mombasa, the box of tomatoes is retailing at an average of 100 dollars, in Kisumu 76 dollars and in Nairobi 80 dollars.

“There is a huge shortage of tomatoes, which has caused the sharp price hikes. This happens whenever there are rains. Tomatoes perform better during the dry season. Most of those supplying the commodities to the market are farmers who use green houses,” said Gathithu.

The difficulty in transporting the produce from farms has thus compounded the problem for consumers, who have to put up with the high prices.

“We are buying tomatoes at very high prices and it has become difficult to find them,” said Nancy Auma, who runs a grocery in Komarock on the east of Nairobi. For Auma and many other traders, the high prices of tomatoes have made it hard for them to buy a whole box.

“You cannot afford the price. These days I buy a half a box or a quarter. This means the cost increases slightly,” she noted.

At her food store, Auma is selling tomatoes at 0.11 dollars each. Two weeks ago, the trader, as many others in the city, was selling three tomatoes at 0.23 dollars.

“Things have become tough. The prices have increased reducing the purchasing power of consumers. Most of those who come here to buy are complaining of the cost, but it is not our fault, we have to make profits,” she said.

Similarly, the cost of onions has gone up. In various towns in Kenya, a 13 kg bag of the commodity is going for between 8.2 dollars and 14 dollars.

In the capital Nairobi, the food item is retailing at 9.4 dollars n wholesale markets, with traders in suburbs selling the commodity at between 0.05 dollars and 0.11 dollars each.

On the other hand, a 50 kg bag of kales is going at an average of 14 dollars across markets in the East African nation.

In the capital Nairobi, while some traders have reduced the size of the bunch of the commodity and are selling it at 0.05 dollars, others have maintained the size and doubled the price.

“It depends with who are your customers. Some customers are price sensitive. For them, it is better you reduce the size of a bunch and maintain the cost than increase the price,” explained Auma, who is selling a bunch of kales at 0.11 dollars.

Other food products whose prices have gone up include maize, fruits, cabbages and carrots. A 90 kg bag of dry maize is currently retailing in the East African nation at an average of 38 dollars, up from 35 dollars.

Similarly, traders are selling a piece of cabbage at an average of 0.58 dollars and a 90 kg bag of oranges is going for 30 dollars, up from 27 dollars.

Gathithu and Auma noted that prices of the commodities will only come down if the rains subside.

“If current transport problems caused by heavy rains persist, then fresh food prices will rise further,” said Auma.


Experts warn of looming
food shortage in Kenya  

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan experts warned Friday of a looming food shortage due to prolonged political campaigns and heavy rains that have disrupted transport and farming activities across East Africa.

Kenya Society for Agricultural Professionals (KESAP) chairman Paul Mbuni told Xinhua that the destruction of infrastructure such as roads and bridges would reduce food supplies and lead to food insecurity towards the end of this year.

“If the current rains continue with the same intensity for the next three weeks, we expect food shortages and escalation of food prices in May and June this year,” he said.

Moreover, former Agriculture Minister Sally Kosgei said increased political activities had disrupted farming activities in the Rift Valley, the country’s grain basket, which could contribute to a food crisis.

“Most farmers, especially in the North Rift region, shied away from tending to their farms in good time for fear of the unknown,” she said.

Mbuni said there was an urgent need for the government to step in to restore the destroyed infrastructure and explore means to make farm inputs available to all farmers at an affordable cost.

He said small-scale farmers had been the hardest hit as most of their farming was carried out in the open, exposing their produce to torrents and flash floods.

Flash floods have caused at least 32 deaths, displaced 18,633 others and resulted in widespread destruction of property and infrastructure, as well as disruption of key activities, such as farming and education.


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