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Beating inflation Nairobi style

As manufacturers implement the VAT Bill 2013 pushing retail outlets to hike prices, low income earners have turned to food kiosk vendors for sustanance.

This segment, commonly classified as casual labourers, constitutes of up to 34 per cent of Nairobi’s population, according to World Food Programme (WFP).

Despite the government blaming runaway prices on unscrupulous traders and promising to take action, most consumer goods prices remain high, according to 30-year-old Chris Eshitemi who lives in Dagoretti, driving people like him to adjust their shopping tremendously.

Mr Eshitemi, a father of one, says he has had to make constant adjustments to the shopping basket.

He has to strike a balance that will not jeopardise his family’s modest lifestyle.

“Food is top on the expenditure though I also have to allocate cash to non-food expenditure like rent,  power and transport. Since I must adjust, that is where kiosk food vendors come in,” said Mr Eshitemi.

For the past five months, he has opted for ready food from the vendors instead of having the meals prepared at home.

“I can buy Sh30 githeri (a mixture of boiled maize and beans), few additives like tomatoes and onions for another Sh10, bringing the total per meal to about Sh50,” he said.

According to Mr Eshitemi, this is way below half the amount he would have used had his family decided to prepare the meal from scratch. He says his maximum monthly expenditure on food in Sh5,000.

According to an Urban Food Security Assessment report by WFP, Dagoretti and other low income areas have an average food and non-food expenditures of between Sh6,544 and Sh9,398 per month.

An earlier report by WFP prior to enactment of the VAT Bill indicated that Nairobians spend about 44 per cent their income on food.

Looking for alternatives

For breakfast, the fibre optic technician says he rarely buys processed milk and has not adjusted his consumption since the price has remained the same.

“Bread whose price has shot to Sh50 no longer features in our menu. I either buy three chapatis at Sh10 each  or six doughnuts each going for Sh5,” adds Chris.

Food vendor Tom Okello says it would be disastrous if he increased prices.

“Almost all of my customers’ income remains the same despite high prices of cooking products. Any increment will stop them from coming and they’ll look for  alternatives,” says Okello  who has been operating the kiosk for two years.

Unlike upcountry, rainfall doesn’t necessarily impact the cost of food in Nairobi. Other variables like transport and production dictate the price.