Economy

Inflation hits seven-month on surging prices of cooking oil, soap, gas

gas

An attendant arranges gas cylinders at a Nyeri petrol station on May 22, 2013. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya’s inflation has hit a seven-month high on the back of a jump in prices of essential items like cooking oil, soap and cooking gas in the last 12 months, further squeezing the largely stagnant earnings of households.

The inflation — a measure of annual changes in the cost of living— hit 6.47 percent in April from 5.56 percent in the prior month, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics reported on Thursday.

This is the highest pace since last September when it stood at 6.91 percent.

“Prices of food items in April 2022 were relatively high compared with prices of food items recorded in April 2021,” said KNBS managing director Macdonald Obudho in a statement.

“Furnishings, Household Equipment and Routine Household Equipment Index increased by 0.72 percent between March 2022 and April 2022. This was due to an increase in prices of laundry/bar soap and detergents, among other items.”

Cooking oil prices jumped the highest in April with a litre selling for Sh351.99, a 41.66 percent surge compared with a year ago, the KNBS data shows.

It was followed by cooking gas where refilling a 13-kilo cylinder cost households 38.18 percent more to an average of Sh2,866 while a two-kilo packet of wheat flour bumped 24.72 percent to an average of Sh160.70.

A spike in the global cost of edible vegetable oils such as crude palm oil, sunflower, soybean and corn oil by an average of 45 percent in the last year has sent the prices of final products such as cooking oil, soaps and cosmetics with glycerin through the roof, squeezing the incomes of most households.

Palm oil production in Malaysia has been hurt by labour shortages and floods, soybean in Argentina and Brazil by drought, while the war in Ukraine has halted sunflower oil production.

The KNBS data shows an 800-gramme bar of soap is selling for Sh149.23, a 23.53 percent climb year-on-year.

“We have tried to minimise the cost to consumers by being creative and innovative with other parts of the supply chain, but overall we have had no choice but to increase the prices by 35 percent on average,” Mr Rajul Malde, the commercial director for Pwani Oil — the makers of products such as Fresh Fri cooking oil and Sawa soaps — told the Business Daily on Monday.

Other commodities whose prices have risen significantly include a kilo of Irish potatoes, which has shot up 22.35 percent to Sh88.40, a two-kilo packet of sifted maize flour (14.70 percent to Sh134.79), while a kilo of beef is up 14.70 to Sh508.49.

The jump in the cost of basic commodities emerges in a period when workers’ pay is yet to recover from the effects of Covid-19, prompting households, especially in the low-income segment, to cut non-essential expenditures.

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