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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Relief for many Kenyan families as food prices drop to new low

By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Going to the market for her weekly fresh produce supplies for Nairobi resident Abigail Sande has been an enjoyable experience for the last two weeks.

As prices of various produce have declined, Sande can choose a variety of items to buy unlike over a month ago when her choices were limited by the high costs.

“Initially when I went to the market, I would only buy sukuma wiki (kales) vegetables, whose price was fair and ignore traditional vegetables or cabbages because they were unaffordable,” said Sande on Thursday.

Supply of fresh produce that include tomatoes, vegetables, potatoes, capsicums, onions and green peas, among others, has improved in the East African nation in the last three weeks, bringing relief to millions of consumers who for the better of the year were grappling with high costs.

All the fresh produce have registered significant decline in prices but among the top decliners are cabbages, carrots, green maize, tomatoes and potatoes.

Prices of the commodities have declined by up to 15 percent in the last month, with a bunch of 10 leaves of sukuma wiki, Kenya’s favorite vegetable, now going as low as 0.05 dollars.

Like sukuma wiki, traditional vegetables that are in high supply thanks to the ongoing heavy rains across the East African nation have registered much drop in prices.

Tomatoes, similarly, are going for a song, with four big ones selling for 0.10 dollars, down from double the amount.

“I am happy with the drop in prices. My family can now eat as much variety of foods as they want, especially vegetables. In fact, with the reduced prices, my kitchen budget has declined considerably,” said Veronica Njuguna, a marketer in Nairobi.

Latest Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed that food prices dropped in October by between 2 and 13 percent.

According to KNBS, tomato prices declined by 5 percent, cabbage 13 percent, carrots 11 percent, green maize 2 percent and onions 4 percent.

The cost of the commodities has dipped further by now, especially due to the ongoing rains that have helped steady supply.

“Food and non-alcoholic drinks’ index decreased by 1.78 percent. This was due to observed drop in the cost of several food items mainly attributed to favourable weather conditions,” said KNBS in a statement last week while releasing inflation figures.

The year-on-year food inflation during the month dropped to 8.47 percent in October from 10.3 percent in 2016.

Overall inflation, on the other hand, dropped to 5.72 percent from 7.06 percent, according to the statistics agency. It was one of the biggest drops this year, after inflation peaked at 11.5 percent in April.

The low food prices have made lives for Kenyan families bearable after months of suffering that made the government come up with subsidies to cushion suffering citizens.

The Kenyan government in May moved to cushion citizens from high food prices, in particular of maize by introducing subsidized flour that retailed at 0.9 dollars, down from 1.5 dollars, a 60-percent drop.

The program was to end last month, but the government extended it by two months. Besides maize, sugar prices have also declined to 1.1 dollars a kilo, down from 2 dollars.

However, the low prices may be short-lived, according to Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi.

“The government two days ago raised the cost of fuel by between 0.01 dollars and 0.05 dollars, a move that may increase food prices, pushing up inflation because fuel is a key ingredient in production,” he said.

             

 

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