'Spend Sh200 before you get cheaper unga’, Eldoret shoppers told

A shopper at a supermarket. Some retail outlets in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, are forcing shoppers to purchase goods worth a certain amount before being allowed to purchase a two-kilo packet of subsidised maize flour costing Sh100.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Some retail outlets in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, are forcing shoppers to purchase goods worth a certain amount before being allowed to purchase a two-kilo packet of subsidised maize flour costing Sh100.

There has been a shortage of subsidised flour on shelves, with the government accusing millers and traders of hoarding supplies.

Traders in Eldoret claim unscrupulous traders are purchasing the flour at Sh100 from supermarkets and hawking it at more than Sh150.

Veer Dhodia, the manager of Uzuri Supermarket, said his outlet allows each buyer only one packet of subsidised flour with an extra shopping of Sh200 so as to deter such hawkers.

“Despite the government’s assurance that subsidised flour will be available in plenty, millers are not willing to supply us with the flour,” Mr Dhodia explained.

“It is unfortunate that we have been forced to put an extra burden on shoppers of buying other goods worth Sh200 so as to ensure that other legit buyers get at least one packet.”

Mr Dhodia challenged the government to dispatch officers to monitor millers who he claimed were not adhering to its subsidy directive even though they were paid to supply supermarkets with flour.

He claimed some millers have slowed down production under the pretext of a maize shortage. He also said millers were capitalising on increasing political uncertainty to derail supplies.

Other millers have started closing down machines for alleged annual servicing.

Mr Dhodia warned that the prices of flour were likely to skyrocket after the August 9 polls because the government gesture had been politicised.

“I can tell you for free the price of unga will go up even much higher after the August 9 polls. The government has not put in place proper mechanisms to sustain this price,” he said.

The situation was similar in other retail stores across Eldoret, where flour shelves were completely empty.

At Khetias Supermarket, manager David Andera said there had been no supply of flour the past three days.

Enough subsidised flour

"Our suppliers are not supplying us with enough subsidised flour. Customers scramble for the little supply that comes in and it hardly sustains us for a day,” he said.

At Transmatt, there had been no supply of the subsidised flour since Monday.

Naivas supermarket, which had consistently stocked the commodity, had no stocks to sell to customers when the Nation checked on Thursday.

The government has linked the scarcity of subsidised flour to panic buying ahead of Tuesday’s elections.

Speaking in Nandi Hills last Sunday, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya issued a stern warning against millers that he accused of hoarding maize flour.

The CS, who was campaigning with Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga and running mate Martha Karua, said Kenyans were still suffering under high maize flour prices because after the subsidy was announced, some millers decided to hide the product.

He promised a crackdown on those hoarding maize flour.

"We reduced the prices of maize flour. Unfortunately, some millers have decided to hide them. As we speak now, the government is assessing where they are hiding this important product. We are going to take action against them," Mr Munya said.

Although the government has promised that the subsidy programme will continue after the August 9 polls, a majority of Kenyans are sceptical.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration announced an Sh8 billion stimulus package to reduce unga prices up to a half in efforts to cushion Kenyans from soaring food prices.

“This is meant to lower the cost of living for the vulnerable households as we look for a sustainable solution to the recurrent rising price of unga every election,” President Kenyatta said when he addressed the country recently.

The cost of living has been soaring in Kenya, with the monthly inflation rates hitting 7.9 percent in June, the highest in over five years, mainly pushed by rising food prices.

President Kenyatta said the maize problem had recurred every election year since 2013 and intensified in the lead-up to elections.

“It is shocking to politicise the misery of the vulnerable. But it is more distasteful to gain political capital out of the sufferings of the vulnerable without offering solutions,” he said.

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