A sharp increase in prices of basic commodities and food for the last few months has pushed up the cost of living.
Kenyans had expected prices of food items including milk and sugar to remain constant after President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted the countrywide curfew and several other Covid-19 containment measures.
But the soaring cost of commodities has forced people to brace for hard times ahead of Christmas festivities.
A spot check by The Standard in supermarkets in Western showed prices of essential food items have hit a 10 per cent increase this month.
Supermarkets like Quickmart, Khetias, Foodplus Chandarana and Mama Wototo and wholesale-retail shops in Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia and Vihiga have been implementing the new prices.
The management of some of the supermarkets confided that prices of some food items increased by almost 50 per cent.
Vegetable oil, sugar and a packet of milk which take the lion’s share of people’s daily earnings top food items whose prices have been soaring.
A litre of cooking oil in supermarkets has risen from Sh230 to Sh300 depending on the brand, while one kilogram of sugar is currently retailing between Sh110 and Sh135, also depending on the brand.
A 500ml packet of milk is selling at between Sh50 to Sh57, depending on the brand.
A manager at Mama Watoto Supermarket in Kakamega town told The Standard that prices of basic products have been soaring leaving the business with no option but to review the prices of the items.
She singled out vegetable oil and milk whose prices started shooting up early this year. “The prices of vegetable oil have almost doubled,” said the manager.
The manager added: “We have been buying commodities at higher prices from the distributors and in order to remain afloat, we are forced to adjust the prices, or else we could be forced to close shop.”
“Even as we increase the prices, the sales are not impressive. You have to pay workers, rent, and also purchase the stock but the number of people with purchasing power continues to reduce,” she said.
Vincet Luchevi, a retail shop owner in Kakamega town, said the high prices in commodities started by manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers “and now it is affecting the entire Kenya population”.
“When manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers increase the prices, I also have to adjust accordingly putting into consideration several factors including but not limited to transport, unfortunately, innocent Kenyans have to bear the brunt,” said Luchevi.
According to the businessman, the fast-approaching 2022 General Election could have contributed to the current price surge.
“We cannot say it is because we are approaching the festive period because the same period last year food items were affordable.”
Like many other business entities, Luchevi said he only places orders for items that are in high demand.
Geoffrey Musungu, a resident of Kakamega, believes the price surge is influenced by government’s over-borrowing.
“Borrowed billions were directed in robust projects whose value and returns may not be felt immediately yet the economy needs to be stimulated. I don’t see things improving soon because the government is obligated to repay huge loans borrowed earlier,” said Musungu.