The Central Bank of Kenya has projected that the price of essential food items, including staples such as maize and wheat, will drop towards the end of this year.
According to a statement from CBK’s monetary policy committee released on Tuesday, the price of maize and wheat reduced in September and is expected to continue dropping due to improved supply and government measures to zero-rate key food imports.
“The Survey of the Agriculture Sector conducted in the first half of September 2023 showed that the prices of key food items, particularly maize, were expected to decline further with the ongoing harvests in the main maize-producing areas of the country,” CBK’s statement read in parts.
Nonetheless, CBK stated that the food inflation rate had risen from 7.5 per cent in August to 7.9 per cent in September.
It attributed the rise to the increase in the prices of key vegetables, specifically onions, Irish potatoes, cabbages, spinach, sukuma wiki, and tomatoes.
For context, a kilogram of onions currently retails between Ksh150 to Ksh180, a 100 per cent increase from the Ksh80 it sold in March this year.
Similarly, a 1kg bag of Irish Potatoes that went for Ksh80 in September 2022 currently costs Ksh100 on average.
In contrast, a 2kg packet of maize flour is currently retailing at about Ksh180, a drop from July’s prices, which ranged between Ksh220 to Ksh200.
While this reduction in prices offers relief to Kenyan consumers, it was met with mixed reactions from farmers.
According to Geeratin Ndinda, a maize farmer in Machakos County, a reduction in maize prices will result in a drop in revenue.
Ndinda, who spoke to Kenyans.co.ke, explained that the cost of maize production, including buying seedlings, insecticides, paying workers, and even drying the cereal, is much higher than the commodity's selling price currently.
Farmers, she said, have flooded the market to sell the staple food, thus increasing supply, yet demand was low as most Kenyans are struggling to make ends meet, thus shying away from bulk purchases.
“Because it is harvest season, many farmers are bringing their maize to sell in the market, making the demand low. Furthermore, Kenyans have no money.
"As a result, we are forced to either go back home with our maize or sell it at a throwaway price. I am even thinking of quitting farming,” she adds.
This is the case for many other farmers who have yet to break even on their investments, let alone make a profit.
The expected El Nino only worsens their plight since they must hurriedly harvest and offload their maize before the rain destroys the crops.