Nairobians devise tricks to access low-cost maize flour

A man carries away his bales of flour from Mombasa Maize Millers in Lunga Lunga, Industrial area. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Nairobi residents continue to endure the struggles of accessing the low-cost maize flour as buying this staple commodity turns into a battle of sorts.

While some are still forced to pay highly for the subsidised Government unga, others have to literally fight to buy the flour at the recommended retail price of Sh90.

In most parts of Kibera, unga is still sold at between Sh100 and Sh120 and the product is rarely found. The residents have been forced to invent new ways to get the rare commodity.

Fredrick Andayo, a resident of Kibera’s Olympic area, said locals had given up the fight against the overpriced commodity in order to survive.

“We have come to understand that the retailers incur transportation costs, which they have to recover. If we keep forcing them, we also suffer since they stop bringing the commodity, which fetches low profits,” he said.

Illegal hiking

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This is happening despite a Government gazette notice to retailers who hiked the price of the basic commodity, and a presidential decree to the effect that those who inflate the price should be dealt with ruthlessly.

According to the law, anyone selling the subsidised unga at a price higher than the recommended Sh90 is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.

Another group of Nairobians endures long waits to access the maize flour and keeps questioning when and if the commodity is ever available.

“When will this GoK unga come? I have been here countless times but I receive the same response, ‘it’s finished,” Rose Mutheu asks a supermarket attendant at the CBD.

The attendant, Patrick Ejole, reveals to her the specific time when unga is brought to the supermarket.

“Come at 12 noon if you want unga. Do not delay since in less than 30 minutes, it will all be finished,” warns Mr Ejole.

Pay before delivery

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While some people wait for days to buy the unga in the local shops, others pay for the product long before it hits the shelves.

Susan Ojiambo, who owns a hotel in Kibera, says she pays for the maize flour well in advance, a trick her neighbour taught her.

“My neighbour pays for the unga even before it is brought to the shop. She is issued a receipt, which she returns with to the shop to pick her packet of maize flour,” explains Susan.

She says when the flour arrives, the shopkeeper keeps aside the unga that has already been paid for and the remaining amount is sold to those who come to purchase it later.

Mathayo Seda, who stays in Masimba in Kayole, confirms the trend is common in most parts of Nairobi.

“One shopkeeper told me he had no unga left for sale yet I could see the packs on the shelf. On insisting, the shopkeeper informed him that the packets had already been paid for,” he says.

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