Costly goods, fuel woes push hapless Kenyans to the edge
Consumers are grappling with abnormal surges in the cost of commodities, with some increasing fortnightly.
The pain has been compounded by the increasing cost of fuel, which has been in short supply as marketers slug it out with the government over unpaid fuel subsidies. This week, long queues have been witnessed in various parts of the country as consumers jostle to fuel their vehicles.
A spot check by People Daily yesterday recorded long queues in Nairobi, Nakuru and Eldoret. In Narok, motorists came from as far away as Bomet to local petrol stations to revive their vehicles.
Over 10 petrol stations have remained closed since last Friday, with many people saying they are spending more than four hours in queues waiting to be served.
Pain at the pump
Motorist Evans Kamotho was stuck in a queue for over three hours at Ilmashariani Total Station and, as he neared the pump, the attendant said the fuel had run out.
“This was the only station that had fuel, but they have just announced that their stock is depleted, meaning there is no petrol in Narok Town,” said Kamotho.
No single petrol station in Gatundu town had fuel by the time of going to press yesterday, compelling most taxi and boda boda riders to stop operations.
Led by Oliver Gitau and Patrick Kariuki, the riders and locals urged the government to make fuel available, even if it means increasing its price, instead of stalling activities that earn them an income.
“If the government cannot resolve this issue, we foresee a dark future. Our families are suffering as we have not earned anything for days now. Some of us might resort to crime to support their families. That’s not what we want,” Kariuki said.
Transport in Nyamira County was also paralysed for the third day running after matatu and boda boda riders withdrew their vehicles from the roads following an acute shortage of fuel. Many residents trekked long distances to seek government services at national and county offices.
The fuel shortage worsens the pain Kenyans have been feeling owing to high prices of basic commodities. Retailers said they were enduring constant reprimands from irate consumers wanting to know the reasons for the constant rise.
Liz Wavinya, a hardware employee along Katani Road in Mavoko sub-county, said ambiguous answers were given by wholesalers. “If you ask them why, they tell you yesterday’s prices are not similar to today’s, although we hear it is a result of the President banning trade in scrap metal.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta banned exports or dealings in scrap metal in January until proper guidelines are enacted.
Wavinya’s hardware sells assorted building materials to customers at Katani and Syokimau, areas that are experiencing unprecedented construction of residential and commercial buildings.
Products whose prices have risen exponentially include column steel, iron sheets, roofing nails, tubes and paint thinners.
“A D8 column steel has risen from Sh490 to Sh800, while we buy D10 steel at Sh1,060, up from Sh760. We have to pass the cost to consumers,” something they are not happy about,” said Wavinya.
A check at other products indicated that the wholesale price of a bag of cement had risen from Sh480 to Sh500; black sheet 16 gauge iron sheet from Sh4,800 to Sh5,400 while the 18 gauge one had shot to Sh3,800 from Sh3,200. While she previously bought a kilo of roofing nails at Sh116, it now costs Sh137, with a 500-litre tin of thinner now going for Sh1,100 — up from Sh600.
These high costs will affect construction, purchase and renting of buildings, and are also being felt by households.
For Bethwel Migiro, who runs a grocery store in the same location, apart from complaints on shortage of milk and eggs, the prices of soda, wheat flour, cigarettes, maize, as well as laundry and bar soaps are also shooting through the roof.
Scarcity of eggs, which he blamed on unavailability of chicken feed, has led to price increases from Sh310 a tray to Sh370. Migiro increased the price of a 2kg packet of of maize flour from Sh60 to Sh70, and is selling a kilo of the commodity at Sh43, up from Sh35, effective March this year.
Latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) released in March showed the overall year-on-year inflation rate at 5.56 percent, influenced by a 9.92 percent increase in the prices iof food and non-alcoholic beverages. The indices for eggs, cooking oil, potatoes, house rent, cooking gas, and soaps also went up.
“The month-to-month food and non-alcoholic beverages index rose by 1.49 per cent between February and March. This was mainly attributed to a rise in prices of most food items,” said KNBS director general Macdonald Obudho.
- Additional reporting by Evans Nyakundi, Mathew Ndung’u
and George Sayagie