Next Week…Next Month: Promises To Reduce Unga Prices That Have Never Come To Pass

Written by on 24 July 2023

One of the main anchor points of Kenya Kwanza’s government during its vote hunt mission in 2022 during the presidential campaigns was to lower the prices of basic commodities including maize flour or preferably known by many households as “Unga”.

The mellifluous promise seemed to hypnotize many as the winning vote was made in favour of President William Ruto and his Deputy Rigathi Gachagua who took office on September 13, 2022.

At the time President Ruto had promised a review of unga prices “next week” after he held consultations with various stakeholders.

Two days after taking office, the promise seemed to have drowned as President Ruto announced that his government will not subsidise consumables and will instead focus on production which will lead to stabilisation in prices.

He instead propounded that the government would shift its focus on boosting food production by injecting billions of shillings into both small-scale and large-scale Farming. 

This also prompted the promise to cut down the cost of fertilizer as the government had already procured 1.4 million bags which would sell at Ksh.3,500.

And as many waited for the price drop, the nation was battling a catastrophic food crisis abetted by a biting drought, which saw an acute maize shortage in the nation.

This forced unga prices to hit all-time highs of Ksh.230.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi later announced on January 4, 2023, that Unga prices would be expected to drop significantly by the end of “next month”.

Linturi said the price of unga would come down by the end of February and that the intended reduction was meant to cushion Kenyans from the high cost of living.

The maize shortage forced many maize millers to close shop in March as the United Grain Millers Association (UNGA) said that nearly all the small-scale millers had scaled down on their operations as a result of the situation.  

Ruto’s government had also stated that they were in the process of importing 4 million bags of duty-free maize this month as part of measures to bring down the cost of food.

On April 14, President Ruto assured the nation that Unga prices would scale down from “next week” as another consignment of maize was expected which was aimed at improving food production.

“Mtaanza kuona bei mpya kuanzia next week kwa sababu lazima tubalance. We have to make sure the maize we are importing does not hurt our farmers because it is from farmers in other countries,” he said after commissioning the Mavoko water supply project in Machakos.

“The most important is the maize from our farmers here in the country because it is the one which will help us and which we depend on.”

The price reduction was even backed by State House Spokesperson Hussein Mohamed who claimed that the prices have dropped to Ksh.159 and Ksh.160 depending on millers.

He took to Twitter to share images of a few unga prices in supermarket shelves retailing at lower prices.

“Unga prices have started going down just as President @WilliamsRuto had assured Kenyans over the weekend. Prices have dropped to Ksh159 and Ksh 160, depending on the millers. When the President assumed office last year, a 2kg packet was retailing at approximately Ksh230,” he tweeted.

However, his claims were fact-checked by Citizen Digital which revealed that various supermarkets and retail shops had not yet effected the price changes.

In Naivas and Quickmart supermarkets, a two-kilogram bag of maize meal ranged from Ksh.189 to Ksh.231.

Ndovu retailed at Ksh.189, Mama at Ksh.198, Soko at Ksh.207, Dola and Jogoo at Ksh.208; and Hostess at Ksh.231 at the said outlets.

The precipice had already occasioned stiff anti-government protests as the opposition demanded that the prices (among many other things) be lowered, censuring President Ruto over not fulfilling his ambitious promises.

Three months later on July 20, the government, through Principal Secretary (PS) in the State Department for Crop Development, Harsama Kelo, announced that maize and unga prices will considerably reduce “next week.”

“Today held [a] meeting with members of United Grain Millers Association. Noted that by next week prices of maize and unga will reduce significantly,” said Kelo in a statement.

As it stands 2kg unga packets retail between Ksh.200 – Ksh.260. At Carrefour supermarket, Pembe retails at Ksh.210, Soko Ksh.230, Amaize Ksh.247, and Hostess Ksh.245.

At Naivas, Pembe sells at Ksh.222, Jogoo Ksh.235, Amaize Ksh.250 and Hostess Ksh.260 on Sunday. 

Kenyans are waiting with bated breath for the government to reduce the promised prices. The nation prays that this will not be another “next week” promise.

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