President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed the cost of maize flour, Kenya’s staple food, to be cut in half less than three weeks before the August 9, General Elections, but customers are yet to see the commodity on shelves.
Despite the President’s order, the maize flour prices have largely remained above Kes200 across the country even after the government announced a subsidy on Monday.
A spot check at Naivas, Quickmart, and Carrefour supermarket outletss in Nairobi on Thursday reveal that only Naivas has lowered the cost of maize flour to Sh100. Naivas is retailing only Jogoo and Pembe 2kg maize flour brands at Sh100 and limiting it to four pieces per customer.
Ndovu, Cosmo, Oryx, Amaize, Mama were still retailing at over Kes200 a day after the order from the President.
The latest move by the President aims to deal with the rising cost of living that has seen prices of basic commodities soar in recent months. Maize flour is the key ingredient for “ugali” a local delicacy and staple food in Kenya.
“This programme of a subsidy of approximately Kes105 per 2kg pack of maize meal is meant to lower the cost of living for vulnerable households as we look for a sustainable solution to the recurrent rising prices of unga every election,” Mr Kenyatta said of the plan signed between the government and maize millers and registered with the Agricultural Food Authority.
Critics say the President is leveraging the price subsidy measure to influence the choice of his successor in the polls.
“It is shocking to politicise the misery of the vulnerable… it’s more distasteful to gain political capital out of the sufferings of the vulnerable, without offering solutions,” he said in a speech.
The Head of State also noted that maize flour price has always shot up months to the election, citing July 2012 before the March 2013 election, when the price of a packet of 2 Kg unga shot up from Kes70 to Kes130.
He further said the deal brokered with the milers to lower the cost of the staple meal include suspension of the railway development levy and import declaration fee on all imported maize.
“As a consequence of this continued escalation in food prices, I today announce fiscal measures focused on food subsidy, as our Fifth Stimulus Programme covering the supply and distribution of our nation’s staple food – maize meal, across the entire country,” he said.
Thanking the millers for understanding and seeing the need to accept the deal and ensure Kenyans live within their means, the president cautioned leaders against politicizing the rising cost of living without offering solutions and instead asked the corporate class, politicians, and state actors to join efforts aimed at alleviating the situation.
“The partnership between the corporate citizen and the political class has to be to the ultimate benefit of the people in all of our republic. And if it breeds misery like the high price of maize every election, then it’s the voter’s duty to put an end to it,” Mr Kenyatta added.