Category Archives: inflation trend in Kenya

Urban Inflation Index July 2018

The running urban inflation Index compares prices of common goods In Nairobi to what they cost one year ago, five years and ten years ago when the index started.
The  July 2018 index comes at a time when there are sensational headlines about quality and counterfeits that was triggered by the drought of 2017 and subsequent importation of foods including sugar late last year.

It has also tricked into crackdowns, indictments, arrests, and parallel investigations by the Police, tax authorities,  parliamentary committees and food safety regulators that has seen queries about tons of goods including sugar, fertilizer, animal feed, building materials, alcoholic spirits, (refilled) LPG gas, auto spares, and sports shoes among other common items – with confiscations at the Mombasa Port, airports like Eldoret and bazaars and shops in Nairobi which have resulted in some demonstrations by business traders.

On to the index.

More expensive

Staple Food: A 2 Kg pack of Unga is Kshs 98 today. Last year, it was at a government-subsidized price of Kshs 90. In 2013 it was 104, and ten years ago, an Unga pack was Kshs 73.

Beer/Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 230 at the local pub. Five years ago a beer was 200, and ten years ago a beer was Kshs 130. Just a few months ago, during a tour of Kenya Breweries, the managers said that, based on the recommended retail price of Kshs 140 for a bottle of Tusker, Kshs 84 was tax, Kshs 23 goes to the distribution chain and just Kshs 33 was for them as a company to produce the beer at profit and to pay its shareholders.

Domestic electricity pricing over ten years of the inflation index.

Electricity: A chart of domestic prepaid electricity purchases shows that electricity was at its lowest in May 2015, and its highest in July 2015 and now in July 2018. One observation is that pre-paid power purchases no longer fluctuate. At the beginning of the month, one used to get 40 or even 50 units for Kshs 500 ($5), but now that amount only realizes 22 units and the pre-paid meters issue a (low-token )beep warning the whole month – and power tokens seems to exhaust a lot faster (because the units are less initially)

Other Food Item: Mumias, which used to be part of the index, was Kenya’s sugar industry bellwether – a diversified company that also produced ethanol and electricity and whose shares were once offered to the new investors at Kshs 49 per share. but which now trades at less than a shilling (Kshs 0.70) today. But Mumias now has no stocks on supermarket shelves as production was halted due to a lack of cane and long pending bills owed to farmers. A  2 kg pack of Mara, a competing sugar brand, is Kshs 298. A year ago, a bag of Chemelil sugar was 290, and five years ago Mumias sugar was 250, while ten years ago, a Mumias pack cost Kshs 145.

About the same

Fuel: Earlier this month, the ERC raised the price of petrol by 3 shillings – so in Nairobi a litre of petrol now costs Kshs 112.2 (approximately $5 per gallon). Last year a litre of petrol was Kshs 97.1, five years ago it was Kshs 109.52, and ten years ago it was Kshs 101.50 per litre. But from September 1 2018, Value Added Tax (VAT) which is 16% is expected to be added back to the cost of fuel.

Finance: Bank loans are 14.%, and have remained so ever since the introduction of interest capping in 2016. But the law is set to be adjusted this year by the government, in spite of opposition from parliamentarians who had passed the cap law. Also, average bank rates were 17% in July 2013.

Communication: Not much has changed in terms of phone rates over the last few years. At Safaricom which had (March) 2018 revenue of Kshs 224 billion, 40% of that was from voice, 28% from payments (such as M-Pesa), and 16% from data while SMS accounted for 8% of revenue. The cost of making mobile payments went up slightly in this year’s budget with a tweak in the excise tax on money transfers, and a charge on large bank transfers that has since been temporarily suspended by a Court.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US $ equals Kshs 100,75, while a year ago it was Kshs. 103.9. Five years ago it was 87.15 and ten years ago the dollar exchanged at Kshs 67.4. Also ten years ago the Euro was at 101, the Rand 8.9 and the Sterling Pound 125, while today the Euro is at Kshs 117, the Rand at Kshs 7.4 and the Pound at Kshs 133.

Other Energy Source: An LPG gas cylinder at Kenol is Kshs 2,250 this month. A year ago (in March) it was 2,030 and six years ago (2012) it was 3,000.

Less Expensive

Nothing really

Share this inflation index if you agree with the perceptions about what has become more or less expensive over the years.

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Urban Inflation Index: July 2017

Comparing prices and inflation in Nairobi to four and five years ago. 

Price and inflation comparisons are made a bit difficult by the unprecedented (in recent years) shortage of certain food commodities. Back in 2008 as post-election violence rocked the country, supermarkets opening shop, receiving supplies, stocking shelves and selling fresh foodstuffs and household items were seen as one of the barometers that life was getting back to normal. But going into the August 8 elections, several supermarkets have had empty shelves, notably at Kenya’s largest chain, Nakumatt that is limping under debt, and empty shelves, with lawsuits from landlords and key suppliers and a delayed shareholder deal. Unlike Uchumi who faced a similar situation just over a year ago, Nakumatt has not shown humility in asking for a bailout from the government or relief from suppliers and partners.

On to the index

Gotten Cheaper (in four years)

Finance: Bank loans are 14.0% due to the interest capping law of 2016. Average bank rates were 17% in July 2013

Fuel: A litre of petrol is Kshs 97.1 (~$4.25/gallon) today in Nairobi. It was 109.52 per litre in July 2013 (and 117.6 five years ago).

About the Same

Staple Food: With just under two weeks to the elections, maize has been hard to find, even at the government subsidized prices of Kshs 90 per pack. In July 2013 the pack cost Kshs 104 (and it was 118 five years ago) But just how long it will stay at 90 is not clear as the 2017/18 budget drafted at a time of high maize prices and low supplies, zero-rated the importation of white maize for a period of four months. Will it go back up after this window closes?

Communications: Phone call rates flattened in 2013 even though at the time Airtel and Yu were bringing the prices down, while now Safaricom battles distant Telkom Kenya (rebranded from Orange) and Airtel, as well as Equitel from Equity Bank, with competition more on data pricing, and mobile money transfers – where M-Pesa still dominates.

Beer/Entertainment: A 200 bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 200 at the local pub. This is the same price it was in July 2013. (And it was 180 five years ago)

Utilities: Pre-paid electricity is about Kshs 2,500 per month, which is unchanged from the last review. The calculation of pre-paid tokens remains a complicated exercise.

More Expensive

Other food item: Sugar is hard to find, more so for traditional brands like Mumias. A 2kg bag of Chemelil sugar is Kshs 290  compared to 250 in July 2013 and five years ago it was 237. Prices of other food commodities like milk and butter have also gone up.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs. 103.9 compared to 87.15 in July 2013 and 84.25 five years ago.

There has been quite some outward flow of currency ahead of the election.

Food Imports to Kenya

While there have been several discussions about maize and other food imports to Kenya such as where the maize came from, who is selling it, and at what price, more is on the way to deal a national disaster situation, partly attributed to delayed rains and prolonged drought.

Writing in a recent opinion piece in the Standard, James Nyoro, government advisor (who was previously the Rockefeller Foundation’s Managing Director, Africa, and probably the next Deputy Governor of Kiambu), wrote that food imports are normal for Kenya… in normal years, Kenya imports 30% of maize, 75% of wheat, 45% of sugar and 80% of its rice needs.

This comes at a time when all of Africa is talking about embracing agri-business and getting more people and more value out of agriculture. Kenya is probably in a very good place, as it  produces lots of foods, does a lot of local consumption and international exports, and has good networks and communications tools for farmers and government, but still, there is little finance to agriculture, and a lot of prime agricultural lands is being converted to real estate or commercial uses.

The Cabinet Secretary for Treasury recently gazetted and listed companies that were allowed to import duty free, non-GMO, yellow maize to be used for animal feed including Unga Farmcare 36,000 metric tonnes, Pembe Feeds 20,000, Isinya Feeds 50,000, Sigma Feeds 50,000, Milele Feeds 20,000, Mombasa Maize Millers 36,000, Chania Feeds 4,000, Farmers Choice 30,000, Naku Modern Feeds 2,000, Pioneer Feeds 3,000, Empire Feeds 10,000, Tosha Feeds 90,000, Turbo Feeds 1,000, Treasure Feeds 3,000, Economy Farm Feeds 1,000, Prosper Properties 2,000, Legorn Feeds 3,000 , Huduma Feeds 6,000, Eden Millers 5,000, Ohami Feeds 1,000, Tarime Feeds 1,000, and Thika Farmers Group 36,000 metric tonnes

He also set published temporary rules for white maize, sugar, milk, and dates: The ones for white maize included Any person may import white maize if it meets the following conditions—

• The white maize shall not be genetically modified in accordance with the standards applicable in the European Union; i.e it shall not be genetically modified (GMO) maize.
• It shall have a moisture content not exceeding 14.5%;
• It’s aflatoxin levels shall not exceed 10 parts per million;
• It shall be accompanied by a certificate of conformity issued by a company appointed by the Kenya Bureau of Standards; and
• It shall have been imported on or before the 31st July, 2017.
• Any person may import dates during the month of Ramadhan.

In a separate notice, he authorized there be no duty on sugar imported between May 11 and 31 July 2017 and as well as on 9,000 tonnes of milk powder imported by milk processors authorized by the Kenya Dairy Board.

Milk Pricing in Kenya

Most supermarkets in Nairobi now have ATM’s/’bars’ which are machines where customers can bring their own containers and buy their own quantities of unbranded milk. Today at one ATM, milk was Kshs 80 compared to about Kshs 110-120 per litre (sold in half litre packs for 55/= or 60/=) for branded milk packs.

Branded milk sachets

But how does milk pricing work? M-Farm tracked a milk trader called Wangondu,  who sells 1 litre of milk at 70/- at his milk bar.

  • Farmers usually use donkeys to transport milk. The wholesaler is introduced into the supply chain at the point which motorbikes transport milk to a center. When there was Mid March scarcity – majority of the milk was sourced from Kinangop at 35 to 37/= per litre.
  • Boda boda people who bring 100 litres to the main road are paid 250/- meaning, the milk bar trader has to add 2.50 per litre bringing the total cost to 40/- per litre. The road is bad; lot’s of push and pull which adds another cost to the milk.
  • Milk is very sensitive and has to be moved quickly. If one is collecting 1,000 litres, it means there will be 20 motorbikes from different sourcing points and have a vehicle using a particular route to collect aggregated milk. At end of day of the day, milk per litre costs a trader about 40/- to 50/- given the circumstances.
  • Pasteurization costs 6/- per litre bringing the total cost thus far to 56/- per litre.
  • Each vehicle collecting aggregated milk has to have 3 people; a driver and 2 loaders. At this point, transport cost of the milk is charged at 6/- per litre. A wholesaler trader calculates his/her profit margin at 3/-.
  • If milk is being sold to a retailer at 65/- they add 5/- margin to retail the milk to 70/- litre. When there’s surplus milk, a trader reduces 5/- per litre by demanding that the farmer delivers the milk to the aggregation center and bears the cost.   Were it not for the rains, the wholesalers had an agreement that on the Saturday before the start of April rains, milk pricing would have retailed from 80/- per litre.
  • When the rains come, they hire an escort to help with the pushing of vehicles who are paid 2/-. “We as traders, take advantage, don’t see the reason why we should sell the milk at 80/- and we see the way farmer and consumers suffer and we have to be neutral. When we have mercy on both the farmer and consumer, the consumer ends up claiming that my milk is cheap because it has been tampered with and therefore, of poor quality.”
  • Bars have lower milk pricing at some supermarkets

    But all the same, the little margins I make are able to pay licenses and pay my handymen in my milk bars. Even after all deductions, I am able to make 1/- or 2/- per litre as profit.

  • When there’s scarcity of milk, we source from Kikuyu and Limuru dairies. Harvesting, transportation to the milk buyer in town, management of milk at the milk bar – this is my business solely. I have to buy from the joint business source,  make sure there are no additives, and we have to be there to make sure the quality you get from the shamba is what we give the customer.

Milk is also being sourced from other countries in East Africa as and there is a butter shortage (affecting bakers like Sugarpie). 500 grams of butter is retailing at Kshs 1,000/- and this is just ridiculous.

$1 = Kshs 103.

Urban Inflation Index: March 2017

Comparing prices and inflation in Nairobi to four and five years ago.

It’s exactly four years since the last election and we are back into campaign mode for an election on August 8. How has life changed since the Jubilee government came to power? There are many reports about economic growth and food inflation, and the budget speech that was read last week had a planned expenditure of Kshs 2.6 trillion (~$25.2 billion) compared to the government’s first budget  that was Kshs 1.6 trillion for 2013/14.

On to the index comparing prices of basic urban commodities.

Gotten Cheaper

Finance: Bank loans are 14.0% due to the interest capping law of 2016. The Central Bank of Kenya’s bank supervision annual report for 2014 notes that the average lending rate was  16.99%  in December 2013 and 15.98% in December 2014.

Fuel: A liter of petrol is Kshs 101 (~$4.41/gallon) today in Nairobi. It was  Kshs. 111.6 per litre in March 2012 and Kshs 117.6 in March 2013.

Cooking Gas: A cylinder of LPG (cooking gas) is Kshs  2,030 today. It was about Kshs. 3,000 ($37) in 2012 for the 13kg cylinder.

Communications: Safaricom dominates. Prices are coming down and both Safaricom and Airtel have combined packages called Flex and Unliminet respectively . With Unliminet, Airtel customers get free WhatsApp, Facebook & Twitter of up to 100MB per day and at Safaricom, every reload of M-PESA  gets someone 3 free FLEX units. On the money transfer side,  Equitel and Pesalink are driving down the cost of mobile money usage.

About the Same

Beer/Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 200 at the local pub. This is the same price it was in March 2013.

Utilities: Pre-paid electricity is about Kshs 2,500 per month which is unchanged from the last review. The calculation of pre-paid tokens remains a complicated exercise.

More Expensive

Staple Food: A 2kg pack of (Unga) Maize flour which is used to make Ugali that is eaten by a majority of Kenyans daily, costs Kshs. 147 up from Kshs 97 in March 2012 and Kshs 105 in March 2013. But in his budget speech last week, the Minister proposed to zero-rate bread and maize flour to remove VAT. “ Manufacturers, Wholesalers, and Retailers who sell such goods will be expected to reduce the prices of these basic commodities, failure to which, I will reverse the policy. In addition to further lower the cost to Wananchi, the importation of maize during the next four months will be duty free. I expect, therefore to see a reduction of prices for these basic commodities which enjoyed by majority of our people.”

Other food item: Sugar: A 2 kg. Mumias Sugar pack is now Kshs 292; it was Kshs 245 in March 2012 and Kshs 250 in March 2013. It has hard to find Mumias sugar which is going through some issues, so this is the price of Chemelil sugar at the supermarket.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs. about Ksh 103 today compared to Kshs 83 in March 2012 and Kshs 85 in March 2013.

Utility: Water in Nairobi is more expensive.