EDITORIAL: Prosecute traders ripping off maize flour consumers

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 

Some human beings can at times be an intriguing and worrying prospect when society is faced with difficult challenges.

As many Kenyans get to grips with the high food prices and drought, there are a few among them who are only seeing an opportunity to make easy money out of their misery.

It is shocking to learn that retailers made huge profits selling subsidised maize flour above Sh90 for the two-kilogramme packet.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, shoppers on average bought a packet of maize flour at Sh129.64 in the third week of May when the subsidised flour was already in the market.

The government rolled out the Sh6 billion maize flour subsidy scheme with the aim of helping lower the cost of the staple, whose price had shot up due to the drought that hit the region and poor planning. The maize was imported on May 9 from Mexico via South Africa.

The move to cut the price of food was a step in the right direction by the government,  but we must warn that if the rogue traders are not reined in, the programme will fail. There have been reports about greedy traders hoarding the maize flour so as to make a killing.

The high demand for the flour has resulted in shortages and a scramble for the cheap flour. It is no wonder that the government last week gazetted a legal backing for State control of sifted maize flour prices.

Those found flouting the essential goods regulation by selling above the set limit will now face a Sh1 million fine or five years in prison.

We urge the government to crack the whip on those intent on fleecing Kenyans by ensuring that the law is implemented.

It is only by prosecuting the offenders that Kenyans will be able to buy their food at the proposed subsidised prices.

Going forward, it must be made crystal clear that traders will not be allowed to profit from the scheme. That was not why the programme was launched in the first place.