Kenyans query maize imports amid price hikes

Corn cob in someone's hands Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The rising cost of maize has been prompting jokes about how the food staple is now a luxury in Kenya

Kenyans have been facing shortages of basic foods following a drought last year that affected the country's food stocks.

The shortage is such that the price of maize flour, with which people make the staple ugali, is currently twice its usual level, and people living close to the border with neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania have taken to shopping there.

One man is even reported to have killed his wife over a portion of ugali that was too small, The Star website reports.

The government last week imported 30,000 tonnes of maize flour, but Kenyans have been eyeing the shipment of food with suspicion, the Standard Digital website says.

Questions have been raised as to whether the government is colluding with companies to take advantage of the shortage, and suspicions have been exacerbated by pointed questions as to how long the government took to import the maize, and initial uncertainty over where it came from.

The government first said it was from Mexico. When this raised questions about how the shipment could have arrived in the six days that it did, the government clarified it had been imported into South Africa last year but not used, Capital FM reports.

Deputy President William Ruto has called the questions "unfair", asking, on Citizen TV: "Do you sincerely believe that we can play that kind of game with a very serious issue like the lives of people? The food of the people. Don't you think that is dangerous?"

The government has also since announced it will subsidise the import of maize to enable the price of a 2kg bag of flour to return to its usual price of about 90 shillings ($0.87, £0.67).

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