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Economy

Posho mill maize flour now more costly than packed unga

The subsidised maize flour has been in short supply. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The subsidised maize flour has been in short supply. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

Kenyans buying non-sifted maize from posho mills are for the first time paying more than those using packed flour,  exposing the poor more to the rising cost of the staple.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) reveals that on average shoppers bought a two-kilo packet of flour at Sh119, above the Sh90 set by the government under the subsidy plan.

But those relying on flour from posho mills paid an average of Sh130.54 for the two kilos, marking the first time packed flour was cheaper compared to the non-sifted maize.

Traditionally, poor Kenyans rely on flour milled in posho mills, which accounts for about 60 per cent of the supply, to lower their food costs.

But a Sh6 billion subsidy announced on May 16 on maize imports helped lower the cost of the two-kilo sifted flour to Sh119 from an average of Sh135 in April. Last month, packed flour was retailing at an average of Sh129.64 compared to Sh128.70 for the non-sifted. Last June, non-sifted flour was going for Sh84.94 compared to the packed one which retailed at Sh110.57, a difference of more than Sh25.

Now, the government has picked 40 posho mills in Nairobi and some in far flung zones to receive the subsidised flour and ease the pain on the poor who rely on non-sifted flour.

Agriculture Cabinet secretary Willy Bett said the process of issuing maize to the mills had started.

“We have identified 40 posho mills in Nairobi and a number of others in the far flung regions to benefit from cheap maize in our subsidy programme,” said Mr Bett yesterday.

“Access of flour in areas such as Turkana and Samburu is hard and this is the key reason why we have chosen the region as a beneficiary of this scheme,” he added.

But the subsidised maize flour has been in short supply, prompting retailers to ration the commodity.

The publication of a gazette notice in May criminalising the sale of maize flour above the subsidy price seems not to have dampened greedy retailers keen to cash in on the shortage.

The subsidy cut the price of a 90kg bag of maize to Sh2,300 from over Sh4,000, allowing the 2kg packet of flour to be sold for Sh90 from May 11 against the market price of Sh140.

The Cereal Millers Association said it was unable to meet demand on reduced supply and termed the imports supported by the subsidy as inadequate.

The Treasury published a gazette notice last Friday giving legal backing for State control of sifted maize flour prices and marks the first time the order has been issued under a law passed in 2011 allowing price control of essential goods.

This means that those found selling the 2kg packet of subsidised maize flour at above Sh90 risk a fine of Sh1 million or a five-year jail term.
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