Farm produce prices have skyrocketed in Kwale town in Kwale County which has dealt a big blow to consumers who are already reeling from the financially dry month of January.
Consumers have to dig deeper in their pockets to put food on the table while struggling to raise fees for their children who are returning to school for the new academic year.
Fresh produce sellers at the market blamed the situation on shortage of supplies resulting from slow resumption of business at Mombasa’s Kongowea wholesale market in the wake of Christmas and New Year festivities.
A spot check by KNA found one tomato going at Shs.10 and a kilo at 140, while that of onions is selling at Shs.120 with traders saying the situation might improve gradually.
Geoffrey Muriuki, a trader at the market, said prices went up from early December but were expected to ease once supplies from Kongowea stabilise.
“The prices increased during the festive season as most of the suppliers had travelled home for the festivities and therefore we expect the situation to improve once business returns to normalcy”, he said.
According to Muriuki, the traders are buying a crate of tomatoes at shs. 7,000, a sack of potatoes at Shs. 4,000, and onions Shs.1,200.
The traders said they incurred losses as most of the fresh produce got rotten because of customers dwindled as most of them were away during the holiday.
Some fruits like oranges and mangoes were reported to be in short supply while avocados are completely out of supply at the market.
Another trader, Ms. Martha Baraza blamed the exorbitant food prices at the market on the high cost of transporting supplies from Mombasa.
The traders hoped that things would get better if the proposal by the county government to open a fresh produce whole market at Kombani in Waa-Ng’ombeni ward is implemented.
“The market is expected to reduce the cost of transport as it will be within easy reach compared to Kongowea which is far not to mention the delays at the Likoni ferry crossing which compounds matters for us”, said Ms. Baraza.
The traders also said that food was expensive in the area as much of it is supplied from outside the county.
Ms. Baraza explained how they used to make huge profits from the sale of kales that were once supplied from Kwale prison farm which has since stopped growing the green vegetables .
The traders underscored the need to improve agriculture in the county so that it can reduce over-reliance on food imports.
A resident, Juma Hassan complained about the rise in food prices saying it was weighing heavily on the already cash-strapped consumers who have to also contend with other needs.
By James Muchai