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Economy

North Rift traders shun subsidised maize flour over low returns, insecurity

A customer picks a packet of unga at a supermarket in Nyeri. . FILE PHOTO | NMG
A customer picks a packet of unga at a supermarket in Nyeri. . FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Many traders in North Rift are reluctant to stock the government subsidised maize flour at Sh90 per two-kilogramme packet due to low returns.

Some of the traders in some parts of the region -- West Pokot, Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet -- have defied the government warning and are instead selling the commodity above Sh90 to recover costs of transporting the flour to far-flung areas.

“It makes no economic sense to sell the maize flour at Sh90 and end up in a deficit” said Paul Lotudo, a trader at Chemolingot shopping centre, Baringo County.

He said they were incurring a lot of costs transporting their shop stocks from Nakuru, more than 167 kilometres away.

It also emerged that many wholesalers in the region have shunned stocking the subsidised maize unga to rampant cases of insecurity.

A two kilogramme of dry maize in most parts of Baringo County is selling at Sh150, way above the Sh90 flour offered by the government.

In Turkana County, the high cost of transporting the government subsidised flour from Kitale to Lodwar has forced most traders in Turkana County to raise the price of the essential commodity.

A packet of costs between Sh140 and Sh180 due to the high transport cost incurred in moving the produce to Lodwar.

Arrested

So far, a businessman has been arrested in Lodwar for selling the flour above the recommended price, according to the County Criminal Investigations Officer (CCIO) Edward Imbwaga.

Mr Imbwaga on Friday said Hassan Ali Ibrahim had been arraigned in court for selling the maize flour at Sh50 higher than the recommended price.

“The businessman was arrested with four bales of Jogoo maize flour. A bale had 12 packets of 2kg maize flour. He paid a fine of Sh90,000, failure to which he would have served two years in prison,” he said.

Mr Imbwaga said residents were complaining of price exploitation by traders, prompting a crackdown in Lodwar.

In a meeting with the traders, it was agreed that the national government, through the office of county commissioner, would intervene by transporting the commodity.

“The transport arrangement is to ensure the commodity remains available in shops but at a recommended price,” Mr Imbwaga said.

Huge losses

In West Pokot, the traders are selling the produce at Sh160, way above the Sh90 recommended by the government.

“We are  incurring huge losses because of the high transportation costs from Kapenguria to Alale which is more than 80 kilometers away ,” said Josiah Petaa from Kiwawa Village, Alale, in North Pokot Sub-County.

The traders take up to two days to deliver the commodity to most parts in the region that borders Uganda.

“One has to incur extra cost by hiring police officers to offer security which eats into our profit, forcing us to increase the cost of maize flour,” explained Mr Petaa.

By Barnabas Bii, Sammy Lutta  Wycliff Kipsang and Oscar Kakai.

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