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Many Kenyan families skip meals as commodity prices soar

By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Fast-rising inflation is forcing an increasing number of Kenyan families to skip meals or practice food rationing.

Inflation in Kenya has hit 57-month high of 11.5 percent, pushed up by soaring prices of basic commodities.

None of the food items used daily by ordinary Kenyans have been spared, with the cost of sugar, vegetables, house rent, potatoes, cooking gas, onions, tomatoes, rice and electricity nearly doubling.

Many Kenyan families are, therefore, squeezed by the high commodity prices as incomes stagnate and job losses rise.

“The most annoying thing about the prices is that they are rising each day. The other day I went to a supermarket and bought a 2-kg pack of sugar at 2.7 dollars. I returned after a week to stock the product for a rainy day only to find the cost had hit 2.9 dollars,” said Nairobi resident Annabel Wanguche, a mother of four.

Anguche, a primary school teacher, said she did away with milk some three months ago when prices started to shoot up and her children are now used to tea without milk.

“For maize meal, I have switched to buying maize from the posho mill and grinding it there but still that is expensive. I now ensure I cook ugali that the children can eat and finish at a meal and it is only once a day, not twice as they used to eat,” she said.

Besides milk and sugar, meat has also become a luxury in many homes as a kilo hits 4.3 dollars in the capital Nairobi.

“I don’t even remember when I last ate meat in my house, perhaps last year because all I do these days is to buy offals (matumbo) for my family. A kilo goes at half the price of meat,” said Samson Kuria, a government worker.

The cost of maize flour, consumed by over 80 percent of Kenyan families, has shot up by 31 percent, going for between 1.2 dollars and 2 dollars per 2-kg packet.

Milk, on other hand, has hit 0.68 dollars per 500-ml packet, up from 0.53 dollars some weeks ago with most families doing away with the commodity in their meals.

The cost of a 2-kg packet of sugar, equally, has risen considerably now going at 2.9 dollars from 2.5 dollars over a week ago, a survey in retail outlets in Nairobi Thursday showed.

The worst hit are poor families, especially those living in Kenya’s slums, where households can barely afford most commodities, including water.

“Life is tough for many families in slums. A lot of them are going hungry because they can not afford many items. I know of many families that are now having one meal a day,” said Susan Wanjiru, a social worker in Korogocho slum in Nairobi.

Analysts warn Kenyan families of tough times ahead, noting that inflation would continue to rise in the coming months due to depressed rains, rising oil prices, weak shilling and elections.

“We expect upward inflationary pressures to persist in the first half of 2017 due to persistent drought that is to carry on for the first half of the year, the global recovery of oil prices spurring cost-push inflation, the weakening shilling due to global strengthening of the dollar, which will lead to an increase in the cost of imports, and given this is an electioneering period, we expect an increase in money supply due to campaign money,” said Cytonn, a Nairobi-based investment firm.



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