Charcoal costs hit new record amid falling demand for gas

A charcoal trader at Makina market in Kibera, Nairobi. file PHOTO | NMG
A charcoal trader at Makina market in Kibera, Nairobi. file PHOTO | NMG 

Charcoal prices have hit a new record in a period that has seen demand for cooking gas fall on rising costs.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) show that the price of charcoal in a four kilogramme tin has steadily risen to an average of Sh81.86, the highest since KNBS started making public monthly prices of the commodity in 2007.

Charcoal prices have more than doubled since 2008 when the tin retailed at an average of Sh35, a blow to low-income households.

But gas prices have been on rise since March with the 13- kilogramme cylinder currently retailing at Sh2, 250 from slightly below Sh2, 000 in March.

This has triggered a steady drop in consumption since quarter one of the year with monthly consumption falling to 5,690 tonnes in March to 3,790 tonnes in July, reflecting a 33 per cent drop.  

Dealers have attributed the rebounding prices to higher global costs at a time when the price of crude oil, from which the gas is extracted, is rising.

The prices tanked below Sh2, 000 last July after the Treasury scrapped value added tax (VAT) on cooking gas to cut costs and boost uptake among poor households.

The decimation of some key forests like the Mau Complex has been blamed on charcoal dealers egged on by a ready market in Kenya’s urban centres.

Poor households are also hurting from expensive kerosene, mostly used by low-income earners for lighting and cooking.