Poor families pay highest cost for charcoal after logging ban

A lorry intercepted for ferrying charcoal. FILE PHOTO | BONIFACE MWANIKI | NMG
A lorry intercepted for ferrying charcoal. FILE PHOTO | BONIFACE MWANIKI | NMG 

The extended ban on logging has pushed charcoal prices to an average of Sh3,000 per bag, hitting hard the budgets of low-income households that use the commodity for cooking.

Latest market reports indicate the price has shot up more than 20 per cent from an average Sh2,500 at end of February when the three-month suspension on logging in all forests was imposed.

A four-kilogramme tin of charcoal that is mostly used to sell the commodity to low-income households is currently priced at an average of Sh100, from Sh50 at the beginning of the year.

In Nairobi’s Donholm, Lang’ata and South B estates, a two-kilogramme (kg) tin is retailing at an average Sh100 with most sellers citing scarcity of their charcoal suppliers.

At Kabati, in Murang’a County, a four-kilogramme tin is selling at between Sh100 and Sh150, with a 90 kg bag costing Sh3,000.


Gas switch

In Homa Bay residents are paying on average Sh2,000 for a sack, compared to the Sh800 it cost at a year ago. In Thika the same quantity is going for Sh2,500 having risen Sh1,000 from the 1,500 it sold at a month ago.

A resident said that eateries in the estates were switching to using cooking gas which is cheaper than charcoal.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data shows the price of a four-kilogramme tin of charcoal rose 9.6 per cent to an average of Sh135.6 in May compared to the same month a year ago. It has risen 66.69 per cent over a year.  
Charcoal prices have more than doubled since 2008 when the smallest tin retailed at an average Sh35, indicating that low-income households have had to dig deeper into their pockets to cook their meals.

Environment and Forestry Secretary Keriako Tobiko extended the ban by a further six months after lapse of the initial three-month moratorium.

Mr Tobiko said: “The six months will also allow the implementation committee to finalise interim reforms and streamline the operation of Kenya Forestry Service (KFS) and management of the forest sector,” said Tobiko.

Quick profits

The anti-logging ban has cut off raw material supply for charcoal dealers and timber merchants, who have in turn increased prices.

Destruction of Kenya’s key forests like the Mau Complex has been blamed on charcoal dealers’ pursuit of quick profits in urban centres.

The continued degradation of key forests has triggered a management shake-up at the KFS in which 15 senior managers, including director Emilio Mugo, were thrown out.