Kenyans are set to enjoy a relatively affordable end-year festivities after low food prices pulled down the December inflation rate to 4.5 per cent, the lowest to be recorded in 55 months.
This comes as a major relief to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government, which has pumped taxpayers’ money running into billions of shillings to keep prices of basic food artificially low.
For a year beset with disruptive electoral politics, the December inflation level marks the fourth drop in a row, falling gradually from a high of 8.04 per cent in August and 4.73 per cent in November.
“The year-on-year food inflation dropped from 5.79 per cent in November to 4.68 per cent in December 2017,” the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) said in a statement.
The slowdown in the cost of living measure comes amid government subsidies on maize flour, Kenya’s staple, in the wake of a biting drought that pushed up prices, prompting the State intervention.
The government also opened its borders for duty-free sugar imports ahead of August 8 polls to boost supply of the sweetener, whose price had breached the Sh400 per 2kg packet mark.
Food takes up the largest share (36 per cent) of the basket of goods that is used to calculate inflation, making it the main driver of the cost of living, followed by utilities such as rent, water, electricity, gas and fuels at 18 per cent.
Some food items that recorded drops in December include tomatoes and sugar while chicken, fish and beef rose in the festive month, but the impact was cancelled out by drops in the other food prices.
Tomatoes dropped four per cent to Sh94 per kilo while sugar eased two per cent to Sh134 a kilo.
The temporary State subsidy fixed the maximum price of a two-kilo packet of sifted maize flour at Sh90.
But Agriculture secretary Willy Bett said that the window for the six-month subsidy will close on Sunday, setting the stage for a rally in flour prices to at least Sh110 a packet in the New Year.
The subsidy, which was announced in May was initially to end in August, but was extended twice to curb the rise in flour prices.