Inflation takes joy out of festive season shopping


Data reveals that the prices of essential festive food items have surged at unprecedented rates. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

As Kenyan families celebrate Christmas and New Year, a shadow looms over dining tables: inflation.

Data reveals that the prices of essential festive food items have surged at unprecedented rates, leaving consumers grappling with higher expenses during what should be a joyous time. A spot check by the Business Daily found that the prices of vegetables such as coriander, bell pepper, tomatoes, meats, and wheat flour — items that many families use during the holiday season — have almost doubled, forcing some households to chop them off the menu.

“We used to buy bell peppers and coriander (dhania) at more affordable prices. However, their prices have gone up. Regrettably, this rise is affecting our businesses. Consumers are now buying must-have ingredients such as onions and tomatoes, avoiding other items due to high prices,” says Stella Mwangi, a seller at Nairobi’s Zimmerman estate.

One kilo of carrot now goes for Sh177 compared to Sh77 last Christmas season. Onions which used to sell for Sh108 a kilo last year have jumped to Sh229. Bell pepper used in meats, salads and vegetable rice has also become a luxury as one piece of red and yellow now goes for Sh80. Alcohol prices have also gone up with a 750ml bottle of spirits now retailing at Sh1,550 this holiday season compared to Sh1,400 last holiday.

A 500ml bottle of beer is also more expensive by Sh23, meaning that Kenyans have to spend more in bars. Sugar, used in many Christmas snacks has experienced the biggest jump of Sh160 with two kilos now going for Sh436 from Sh276 last Christmas season.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ annual consumer price index, over the past year, the prices of essential commodities have consistently risen. In the food sector alone, 9 out of 12 basic commodities have witnessed an increase in prices, impacting the daily lives of ordinary citizens. Beef, wheat flour and potatoes have also become expensive.

The high costs are forcing consumers to rethink their shopping lists. Some are opting for smaller holiday gatherings, while others are exploring alternative ingredients and dishes that are more budget-friendly.

“It’s deeply frustrating that we can’t indulge in the rich, explosive flavours we once enjoyed because how many bell peppers can you buy for Sh80? Even basic ingredients like spring onions that you’d find in our grandmother’s gardens are now expensive. At this rate, I’ve even contemplated cutting out onions altogether due to these exorbitant prices. It’s a challenging and disheartening situation for many of us,” says Mary Njoki, a buyer at a market in Nairobi’s Zimmerman.

Restaurants are also feeling the pinch. Some eateries which used to bulk-shop in markets are mulling over adjusting their menus or adding prices. “If you stay here for long, you will see how very few customers will come to buy this fresh produce. So I decided that I will soon just sell onions and tomatoes alone, and drop the rest of the vegetables,” said Ms Mwangi, the Zimmerman market trader.

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