KIBERA, November 27 – With the country reeling from a serious food crisis especially the lack of maize, it is apparent that more and more Kenyans are feeling the effects.
Joseph Wambua who operates a hotel at Olympic area in Kibera slums already fears that he may be forced to close down his business if the situation continues to deteriorate.
“If the situation does not change, I don’t see any other way out apart from closing down my hotel because most people here eat ugali (made from maize flour),” Mr Wambua told this reporter.
“The one kilogram packet of maize flour is no longer available. I now have to buy the two-kilogram packet which is selling at Sh120 although I like to buy the small packets,” he adds.
He says he has not increased his prices which range from Sh25 to Sh50 but has instead decreased the rations.
“You know if we increase the prices, our customers will keep off. This is a slum area and people look for what is cheap,” he says.
He sees the current shortage of maize as an aftermath of the post election violence.
“It’s the post election crisis that has caused all this. Nothing else.”
Ruth Atieno who operates a cereals business and also sells maize flour has run out of stock.
“I went to Kaloleni where I get my stock. Normally I buy maize flour at a rate of Sh35 per kilogram but it has now gone up to Sh60 and that is too high. So I have decided not to buy,” she said.
“You know we also sell the flour to hotels, and they also want to make profit, so it is hard to come up with an ideal selling price. I can’t sell it now because the price would be too high.”
She points out that despite the shortage and rising prices, maize flour is still on demand among the locals.
“They say they would rather eat ugali and omena (fish) than take tea. They are not even buying rice which is readily available,” Ms Atieno says.
“I think there is enough maize but it is being hoarded by a few people so that they can hike the prices. I would urge the government to look into the plight of Kenyans,” she said as Peter Wachiaya who has operated a posho mill for 10 years added that he was facing a serious shortage of maize.
“I normally get maize from Kakamega, Busia and the Rift Valley. In Busia there is no maize at all and it has made us lose many customers because this has come with a price increment,” Mr Wachiaya complained.
“I used to buy about 10 sacks of maize but I’m now only allowed to buy three sacks because of the shortage and I only have two sacks of maize and once it is finished, I don’t know where I will get more maize,” he sadly states.
“I think I will just have to wait for people to come with their own maize for me to grind.”
Margaret, a single mother of three lives in the same area. With no stable job and rising food prices, she says life has become unbearable for her.
“Times are very hard now that the cost of maize flour has gone up. I used to buy a two- kilogram packet (of maize flour) at Sh50 but now it has gone up to Sh120. Sometimes it is not even available in the shops,” she said.
“I cook a packet of two-kilograms for two days and with the rising cost, I don’t know how I will keep up.”
However the government insists that the maize situation is under control with Agriculture Minister William Ruto expressing confidence that the shortage would soon stabilise.
Maize is Kenya’s staple food and the mainstay of agriculture. A large percentage of the country’s population depends on maize as an income-generating crop.