What Makes Food Prices In Kenya Very Expensive?

Grocery Shopping

What makes food prices in Kenya more expensive compared to her neighbors? The inflation trend in Kenya’s food prices has remained high in 2021 and expected to continue in 2022. Agcenture explored the following four causes to be pushing food prices high. The article will give you the recommended food requirements and give you tips to save money on food and groceries shopping while maintaining high quality.

Are you wondering what is your ability to buy food as a consumer in Kenya?  According to the Global Food Security Index, Kenya ranks position 85/113 on food affordability. You will need at least Ksh 557($5.5) to get the daily recommended caloric needs of 2400 calories. Though this conservative amount sounds low, it’s makes food unaffordable to over 66.5% of her population living under $3.20/day. 

The situation is dire to tourists too relying on fast-food restaurant such as Big Mac for their meals. According to a 2017 survey, the price of fast food in Nairobi is Sh724 ($7.24). On the other hand, a basic lunchtime menu, including a drink in the CBD will cost you Sh914 ($9.14).

Daily Caloric food needs in Kenya

What food requirements in types and amounts are you supposed to consume each day? An adult in Kenya requires 2000-2400 calories each day. These can be provided by fourteen of food easily available in Kenya. They include white bread, rice, read meat and milk. Others are potato, tomato, and lettuce vegetables. Besides, you can get alternative food sources rather than those listed in the table below.

As shown above, you will need to spend minimum of Ksh 557.90 to get the Daily recommended minimum amount of food per person. Assuming a 31 days per month, your food prices will be Ksh17,294.91.  Given the high cost of living most people survive on a single meal a day.  As a result, most children, adults, and the elderly populations in the region are underfed, malnourished, or starving.

What makes food prices in Kenya very expensive?

Why are Kenyans digging deeper in their pockets to put a decent meal on their tables? There are many factors contributing to this phenomenon. The major ones are rising cost of production, Food insecurity, climate change and social factors like urbanisation.

Low Yields

Kenya food yields has been on a decline trend for the last three decades.  The net effect is that she is facing an acute shortage of farm supplies to cater for her human consumption and industrial needs. Suppliers end up marketing their little products at high food prices.

climate change effects like frequent floods destroy food supplies pushing costs high

There are many reasons behind the low agriculture yields. Some of the major ones are.

  • Over 90% of farming in Kenya is for subsistence purposes. Investment in quality inputs and efficient production systems remain low. As a result, yields remain low and of poor quality
  • Climate change effects and erratic weather patterns like droughts and floods destroy many crops and livestock productivity each year.
  • Pests and diseases affecting crops and livestock like Fall Army Worms, Desert locusts and Rift Valley fever among many others. They increase a farmers cost of production and lead to food shortages.
  • Low adoption of modern farming methods and technologies like use of green houses, GMOs, AI or irrigation to mitigate the risks of droughts and pests.
  • Inadequate credit and expensive farming loans push costs of farming and food prices high
  • Low mechanization of farming operations because of land subdivision.

Rising cost of farming

Kenyan farmers and herders are facing rising costs of production to grow and market food. For instance, the costs of fertilizers, pesticides and animal drugs and feeds has been on the rise in the last decade. For instance, the price of a 50kg DAP planting fertilizer in Jan 2021 was Ksh 3,500, the same has risen to Ksh 6,000   by Dec the same year. As a result, there is low usage of quality inputs which result in low yields.

The reasons for the rising costs include imported inflation due to rising global prices of oil, government policy on taxation and weakening Shilling power compared to other currencies.

Producers end up pushing this cost to traders down the supply chain who later pass it to you

Social factors

High population growth, urbanisation and other factors like unemployment are are driving your cost of food high.

According to census 2019 results, Kenya has 48 million people. Her annual population growth rate is 2.28%. Using these projections, Kenya will have more than 100 million people by year 2058. As a result, people will subdivide their lands for settlements reducing available land for food farming. Consequently, there is a shortage for food supply. This will push food prices high by making it unaffordable for many people.

Today 1 in 3 people in Kenya live in towns and cities. Urban dwellers purchase 98% of their food needs compared to rural people who only buy 30 % of their food.

 Majority of people in towns are youth who have little interest in farming. Today, the average age of a rural farmer in Kenya is 56 years while the typical urban consumer is 19 years old. Urbanisation contributes to high food prices through.

  • Shrinking land available for agriculture used for building residential houses
  • Eroding rural areas of active energetic farm workers
  • Rising middle income demand for expensive processed and “healthy products” like organic vegetables and white meat
  • Urban poverty and unemployment in informal settlements where people cannot afford decent income nor nutritious food.

Food Imports

Do you know that your eggs for your breakfast were likely imported? Kenya is a net food importer or food a deficit state.  She produces less food than her domestic needs. It is estimated that she imports close to 70 % of her caloric needs from other countries. Kenya buys bulk of her cereals like maize wheat and rice from COMESA and EAC trader partners. Other imported food products include pulses like beans, fruits, vegetables like onions and tomatoes as well as poultry and livestock products like eggs, meats, and milk.

Bulk of imported food costs higher than the locally grown. This extra cost arises from foreign exchange expenses, custom duty and taxation and cost of transport. These are eventually passed to you the final consumer through expensive pricing.

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