Households hit hard as virus ravages budgets

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021 00:00 | By
Tomato-traders at the Nakuru Wakulima Market. Photo/PD/File

Bernard Sigei

Households continue to feel the heat of the high cost of living amid rising food prices and job losses triggered by Coronavirus pandemic. 

Prices of basic commodities in Kenya has increased to an all-time high even as Covid-19 shocks rendered more than 1.7 million Kenyans jobless, says Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data.

Although the monthly inflation data by the bureau shows the overall rate of inflation in April was 5.76 per cent, compared to the 5.9 per cent recorded in March, the cost of both food and non-alcoholic drinks rose dramatically.

The change in the prices of the items, which make up a third of the inflation basket, during the period under review as expected piled pressure on families already struggling to make ends meet on subdued revenue.

Macdonald Obudho, KNBS Director General said that year-on-year food inflation rose by 6.42 per cent between April 2020 and April 2021.

“For instance, prices of tomatoes, cabbages and potatoes increased by 8.50, 5.68 and 3.85 per cent, respectively,” he said in a statement issued on April 30.

A spot check at Naivas Supermarkets in Nairobi revealed that the cost of a packet of of the popular maize flours ranged between Sh110 and Sh120 compared to Sh95 last year, an increase of about 25 per cent.

Retailers adjusted prices of some goods like bread which increased by 11 per cent from Sh50 to Sh55 per 500 grammes loaf.

Consumers of vegetables have also been forced to tighten their belts, for example, before the pandemic 1kg of onions went for between Sh20 and Sh30 but one has to part with between Sh60 and Sh80 for the same quantity.

“The pandemic has dealt us a big blow, last April before Covid-19 became a full-blown disaster you would buy a kg of tomatoes at Sh20 and Sh40 but now it’s a cool Sh100 which is a 20 per cent increase,” said Irine Talitha, a manager at a Kitengela hotel.

Little money

She added that not only have the prices of the commodities soared but they are hard to come by, especially, during the just lifted lockdown because the fresh veggies could not be transported from the farms and the suppliers who managed to deliver them increased the prices of the produce. 

“The increase in the prices of the commodities has led to many families having to direct the little money they have on priorities like medication, rent and their children’s education,” said Ahmed Barry, a resident of Nairobi Eastleigh.

Kerosene, a commodity used by over 60 per cent of Kenyans is currently retailing at Sh98.78 a litre having increased by 25.69 per cent from Sh78.59 the same month last year.

He said families, especially the slum dwellers have had to adjust to having a meal in a day compared to pre-Covid where they could take at least three meals and also stop taking some commodities such as bread.

“The landlords have increased the rent despite our pleas to consider the current situation.

For me, I have had to move to a cheaper house and relieve my house help of her duties because I took a bedsitter which cannot accommodate us all and I am not working as at now so I can do the house chores,” said Njoki Ann.

During the pandemic, a litre of petrol was retailing at Sh123.66 in Nairobi up 31.86 per cent from Sh93.78 the same period last year. Diesel also increased from Sh 98.51 to Sh123.66 in April 2021.

“Many motorists have been forced to leave their cars at home and use public means as it is cheaper,” said Kurgat Domnic.

He added that for those motorists living near railway stations, the pandemic has forced them to leave their vehicles at the stations’ parking lots then board the trains in the evening back to their vehicles.

In its latest review, Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority increased the price of super petrol by Sh3.56 per litre while that of diesel and kerosene remained unchanged for the period May 15 to June 14.

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