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Kenyans cut cooking gas use as prices surge       

By Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- An increase in the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) amid stifled incomes has seen Kenyans cut down on the use of the fuel.

Many Kenyan citizens have turned to other sources of fuel that include kerosene, charcoal and firewood, abandoning LPG, whose use in June 2016 hit around 17,000 tonnes a month.

Latest economic data point to the fact that the use of the cooking gas in the East African nation has hit the nadir, falling to less than 4,000 tonnes on an average of December and January.

The data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistic (KNBS) showed Wednesday that 2017 was the worst year for the clean energy.

Citizens used a paltry 64,200 MT of LPG in the entire year, the lowest consumption to be recorded in recent years.

In 2016, the use of the commodity stood at an all-time high of 166,820 MT, which means consumption declined by nearly 100,00 tonnes.

In 2017, consumption fell to the lowest in December, when Kenyan residents consumed a paltry 3,400 tonnes of gas despite the December festivities.

Industry players blame the fall on rising cooking gas prices, which are currently as high as 25 dollars for a 13-kg cylinder and 10 dollars for a 6-kg cylinder.

LPG prices have been on the rise since the beginning of 2017, going in tandem with those of diesel, kerosene and petrol.

As at the end of 2017, the price of a 13-kg cylinder stood at 22 dollars, having started at 18 dollars in January. In the capital Nairobi, households are currently refilling a 13-kg cylinder of the commodity at between 22 dollars and 25 dollars.

The cost is higher at multinational oil companies, with a survey on Wednesday indicating that most outlets in the city are selling the 13-kg cylinder at 25 dollars while independent dealers at 22 dollars.

Joseph Kyalo, a gas dealer in Kitengela, a suburb on the outskirts of Nairobi, said Wednesday that the number of people buying the commodity from him has declined significantly.

“Sometime in 2016, I used to sell up to 30 cylinders in a month and get new buyers but these days I sell about 15, and that is the same, same old customers,” he said, whose sentiment was echoed by other dealers.

Carpenter Simon Omondi is among the low-income earners who have stopped using cooking gas, citing high price.

Omondi, who operates in Kayole on the east of Nairobi, said the problem with cooking is that one needs lump sum of money to purchase, unlike kerosene or charcoal that are sold in smaller quantities, making them accessible.

In 2016, the high uptake of the commodity was attributed to low-income earners taking advantage of the reduced prices.

This followed the government move in the June budget to remove the 16-percent VAT it had imposed on the fuel to boost consumption, amid decline in global fuel prices.

But these LPG converts have turned to kerosene as illustrated by the long queues every evening at fuel stations in Nairobi, as LPG prices remains high amid stifled incomes.

“I am not surprised that consumption of the commodity hit that low in 2017. That year was not good for many people in the country because of the long electioneering period, which affected the economy and hence money supply and peoples’ buying power. With low incomes, LPG certainly falls off the budget of many households,” said Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi.

Wandera noted that with many people continuing to lose jobs and the economy shrinking, LPG may once again become a preserve of families with higher incomes.


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