The cost of maize flour is set to go up. Being a staple food, this will greatly affect most Kenyan households at a time they are grappling with harsh economic times. Data available from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) reveals that in the period 2010 to 2015, Kenyans spent half their disposable income on food.
This by itself is an indicator of high levels of poverty, which impact negatively on other vital aspects of life, mostly health and schooling.
Further increases in the price of maize flour are likely to compound an already dire situation. Maize millers in the country are boycotting to buy maize from the National Cereals Board citing health concerns.
This, according to the millers, is informed by the brownish colour of maize from the cereals board which they claim indicates overstaying in the silos and could easily lead to food poisoning.
Such overriding concerns for the safety of Kenyans are commendable since several deaths from aflatoxin (maize poisoning) were reported in the recent past. It would be wrong for millers to keep quiet over a potentially dangerous issue because of profits.
But it is difficult to comprehend how Government silos could have maize that has overstayed. In 2014/2015, farmers in the Rift Valley stopped selling their maize to the Government, citing poor prices. The farmers claimed they were being offered Sh2,300 for a 90kg bag of maize instead of Sh3,300. In fact, at some point in 2015, the Government had to import maize from Tanzania because of maize shortages.
The Government has discounted the miller’s claims and assured Kenyans the maize in store is safe for consumption. Kenyans can only hope that this is not a ploy by millers to increase the prices. We cannot lose sight of the fact that in 2014/2015, millers and middlemen bought maize directly from farmers and should therefore be having enough stocks.