Cheaper ugali finally here

December 9, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 9 – The government has finally announced that maize flour retailing at a cheaper rate will go on sale from Wednesday.

The flour which is branded ‘Feeding the Nation’ and bears the warning ‘not for re-sale’ will cost Sh130 for a five-kilogramme bag was formally launched by Agriculture Minister William Ruto at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) in Nairobi.

“This flour is the same quality; same quantity and everything else except the packaging. Let us not bring skewed politics into it,” he said and added: “We believe there are a lot of Kenyans who want a descent meal and they don’t mind any other issues associated with the flour.”

He said the first consignment of 400,000 five-kilogram bags would be on sale in Nairobi on Wednesday morning but would be rolled out to other parts of the country in due course. The flour will be distributed by NCPB using existing retail networks.

The government yielded to public pressure to put price controls on the staple food and set a maximum of Sh72 on a two-kilogram packet.

Mr Ruto said he expected the new price to be effective within three days.

“We have started supplying maize to the millers at the price we agreed and they have no reason not to supply the flour at the price we agreed,” he said.

The subsidised flour is part of a resolution reached between the government and maize millers last week in a bid to cushion Kenyans from the escalating price of the precious commodity which had elicited public protests.

The price of a two-kilogram packet rose to Sh120 last month up from Sh48 in December last year, owing to the scarcity of maize in the country.

The state agreed to sell maize to millers at subsidised cost of Sh1,750 per 90-kilogramme bag in exchange of lowered prices and supply of the branded maize flour. The millers committed to dedicate 40 percent of their milling capacity to the government branded flour.

To cut on a cartel alleged to be causing the maize shortage, the government also banned middlemen from supplying maize to the NCPB. The government is now purchasing the commodity directly from farmers at the price of Sh1,950.  However farmers have refused to budge and are asking for at least Sh2,500.

Mr Ruto said on Monday, he had tried to persuade farmers in the Rift Valley to agree to the new prices but reports indicate the farmers have resolved not to sell their maize. “I told the farmers I will present their case to the Cabinet but in the meantime we will have to stick to that price,” he said.

The government has allocated Sh4.6 billion for the purchase of extra maize supplies. Mr Ruto said the Treasury had already released Sh1 billion and the rest was expected within two days.

The government further expects to import a total of five million 90-kilogram bags of maize to ease the maize crunch. “The negotiations are on to find out where we can get the cheapest maize at the moment and I think the process will roll out in a matter of weeks,” the Minister disclosed.


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