The prices of basic food items consumed in Kenya went up by the highest annual rate in two-and-a-half years in March with sifted maize flour leading in the increase.
Latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that food inflation for March stood at 11.9 per cent, the highest since August 2017’s 13.5 per cent, which was in the midst of a disruptive General Election.
Sifted or packet maize flour saw a 32 per cent increase in price over the period, and is now retailing at between Sh110 and Sh120 per two kilogramme packet, while the price of loose maize flour went up by 26.2 per cent to Sh53.40 per kilogramme.
Other significant cost drivers were tomatoes, whose price rose 24.6 per cent to Sh120.60 per kilogramme and onions which went up by 18.2 per cent to Sh110.60 for the same quantity.
Extended rain at the end of last year that continued into February raised tomato prices to a peak of Sh128.3 per kilogramme in February before declining to Sh120.6 last month.
“The increase (in food prices) was mainly driven by the jump in prices of some food items such as mangoes, Irish potatoes, onions and cooking oils,” KNBS Director-General Zachary Mwangi said.
Half of the top 10 products where Kenyans spend monthly cash are food items, which determine the overall cost of living in the country.
Restaurant food, beef with bones, fresh packet milk, fresh unpacketed milk and white bread make up the top items given prominence in KNBS measure of living costs, alongside others like mobile airtime and rent.
There is fear that food prices could go up further if the devastating locust swarms are not contained, while the agriculture minister Peter Munya has warned that panic buying of food due to the Covid-19 outbreak could also push prices up.