The main reason why commodity prices are high in Kenya is simply our own laziness.
It’s common sense that all our petroleum products have been imported since independence.
But due to laziness, we have slowly added ordinary foodstuffs such as maize, beans, eggs and vegetables like onions, tomatoes and fruits to the import basket. Yet, these are things we can comfortably produce.
For years, Kenyan maize farmers have grappled with an unstable market for their produce yet successive governments had even forgotten about national grain reserves, which even now are empty.
The main purpose of the maize and wheat reserves was to mitigate hunger and also stabilise grain prices nationally until the next local grain harvest season.
And so, last year, when fertiliser prices shot up beyond the affordability of local farmers, with the ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude of the then-government, acreage for maize growing automatically reduced.
This, then, is the main reason why we have high maize and wheat prices: We have a situation whereby a lot of money is chasing very little flour. The cheapest maize meal at the moment goes for Sh170 per 2kg packet.
Beans are selling at Sh200 per kilogramme. Eggs are retailing at Sh15 apiece.
The skyrocketing prices are also to be found in horticultural products.
Therefore, instead of donning cooking pans on their heads, Kenyans must embark on producing foodstuffs and food products to generate income locally.
How demonstrations can reduce food prices is not even logical. In fact, those people demonstrating are directly denying farmers the extra labour needed to plant food crops on more acreage and even has excess produce, which will reduce commodity prices.
How on earth do Kenyans expect Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia and Kakamega counties to be the only producers of maize? Nyanza, Coast, Bungoma and South Rift regions can produce enough maize and export the surplus.
Poultry farmers seem to have given up. For months on end, egg prices have remained high on the market yet local producers are yet to take advantage of the situation and keep more birds.
The dollar is exchanging at a high rate because the value of our exports is very low compared to the shilling.
It’s ironic and shameful that Eugene Wamalwa, who once headed the Ministry of Devolution and was in charge of the infamous Galana Kulalu maize irrigation scheme that collapsed under his watch, is the one putting a sufuria on his head during demos demanding affordable maizemeal. Can he first tell Kenyans why the project failed?
To beat hunger and be food secure, Kenyans must get back to their farms and produce food in abundance and stop participating in these useless demonstrations.
Robert Musamali, Nairobi