Shortage of maize continues to cause havoc in the Kenyan economy with the poor bearing the full brunt as high food prices further reduce their spending options.
The poor, who spend about three quarters of their income on food, were the worst hit by a reversal of inflation trend from a decline in January to a rise in February 2009.
The rise in the cost of goods and services could also see an increase in the number of women bearing children at home go up as medical services- consultation, bed, and delivery charges- notably went up.
Data released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that inflation in February went up by three percentage points to return to the high levels of 2008.
“The overall inflation rate increased from 21.9 per cent in January 2009 to 25.1 per cent in February 2009,” KNBS says.
The spike was driven by a 6.4 percentage point increase in the food and non alcoholic drinks index, mainly “due to major rises in the prices of maize flour, maize grain, sukuma wiki and most of the seasonal food products in general.”
And this, KNBS says, has pushed the poor deeper into poverty as they will be forced to spend a larger portion of their income on food, leaving little for other basic needs.
“The Nairobi lower income group of the population was the hardest hit by this rise in prices,” KNBS points out.
The average price of a two kilogramme packet of sifted maize flour, the bureau says, increased by 18.48 per cent from Sh78.48 in January to Sh92.99 in February 2009.
It could also get worse for the poor who get sick as other items whose prices went up were medical goods and services whose cost is now up by 4.8 percentage points.
For those planning to increase their households, delivery at home could be the only option as consultation fees, bed, and delivery charges went up by 3.19, 2.67 and 1.74 percentage points respectively.
A tricky balance between feeding and engaging in the “luxury” of child bearing in hospital will definitely tilt towards food.