Prices of vegetables in the country have doubled forcing some families to forego eating the greens, with the ongoing drought worsening the situation.
In the last 12 months, the cost of Kenya’s favourite vegetables sukuma wiki (kales), cabbage and spinach have risen by between 10 and 50 percent.
Of the three, however, it is cabbages whose cost has increased the most, rising by 50 percent last month as compared to a similar period in 2016, according to latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) received Wednesday.
Similarly, the cost of sukuma wiki (stretch he week), which is considered a poor man’s vegetable because it is consumed by millions of citizens, has risen by 33 percent while the price of spinach during the same period has swelled by 11 percent.
A survey in fresh produce markets in Nairobi Wednesday showed that a medium-sized head of cabbage is being sold at between 0.7 U.S. dollars and 0.9 dollars. In January 2016, the same piece was going at 0.46 dollars, according to KNBS.
A kilo of sukuma wiki, on the other hand, is going for 0.47 dollars, with traders selling three leaves for up to 0.1 dollars. A year ago, the same kilo of the produce was being sold at 0.34 dollars.
For spinach, prices have not increased significantly, with a kilo rising to 0.48 dollars from 0.43 dollars a year ago.
“I used to like cabbages and traditional vegetables but right now I cannot afford them because of the prices. I have to rely on sukuma wiki, which is still expensive though. Sometimes, however, I have to forgo vegetables and feed my family of five omena (small fish) alone,” said Tony Muhati, a stone-mason in Nairobi.
The year-to-year increases of vegetable prices beat those of other commodities including maize flour (13 percent), wheat flour (0.8 percent), dry maize (13 percent), beans (9.8 percent) and Irish potatoes (11 percent), according to KNBS.
The high prices have been blamed on the ongoing dry spell in different parts of Kenya, which has greatly disrupted supply. The costly v0egetables contributed hugely to the rise in inflation in January.
“Between December 2016 and January, the Food and Non-Alcoholic Drinks’ Index increased by 1.66 percent. This was mainly attributed to increases in prices of cabbages, spinach and sukuma wiki which were partly contributed by prevailing drought conditions,” said KNBS, with other items being listed as maize flour, wheat flour, and maize grain.
In January, according to the agency, the overall inflation rate stood at 6.99 per cent from 6.35 percent in December 2016, an 11-month high.
Normally, food takes up the largest share (36 per cent) of the basket of items used to calculate inflation, making it the main driver of the cost of living.
At 6.99 percent, the inflation is the highest since February 2016 and slightly lower than the Central Bank of Kenya’s preferred limit of 7.5 percent.
Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer in western Kenya, noted that with the ongoing drought prices of vegetables are set to continue rising as many farmers rely on rains.