As Kenyan families gear up for the festive season, an unwelcome guest has crashed the party – inflation. The joy of holiday celebrations is being dampened by the soaring prices of essential food items, leaving consumers grappling with unexpected expenses. A recent investigation by the Business Daily unveiled a concerning trend, showcasing nearly doubled prices for staples like coriander, bell peppers, tomatoes, meats, and wheat flour – items integral to many holiday feasts.

Stella Mwangi, a seller in Nairobi’s Zimmerman estate, paints a vivid picture of the impact on businesses: “We used to buy bell peppers and coriander at more affordable prices. However, their prices have gone up. Regrettably, this rise is affecting our businesses.”

The cost surge is particularly evident in the vegetable aisle, where a kilo of carrots now commands a hefty price tag of Sh177, up from Sh77 the previous Christmas season. Onions, a kitchen essential, have experienced a staggering increase from Sh108 to Sh229 per kilo. Even bell peppers, used in a variety of dishes, have become a luxury, with a single piece now priced at Sh80.

The ripple effect extends beyond the vegetable kingdom. Alcohol prices have climbed, with a 750ml bottle of spirits hitting Sh1,550 compared to Sh1,400 last holiday season. A 500ml bottle of beer follows suit, demanding an extra Sh23 from consumers, leading to increased spending in bars. Sugar, a staple for Christmas snacks, has witnessed the most significant jump, with a two-kilo pack skyrocketing from Sh276 to Sh436.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ annual consumer price index confirms the unsettling reality – the prices of essential commodities have consistently risen over the past year. In the food sector alone, 9 out of 12 basic commodities have seen an increase, impacting the daily lives of ordinary citizens. Beef, wheat flour, and potatoes are among the casualties of this inflationary trend.

Faced with higher costs, consumers are adapting their holiday plans. Some are opting for smaller gatherings, while others explore alternative, budget-friendly ingredients and dishes. Mary Njoki, a buyer at a market in Nairobi’s Zimmerman, expresses the frustration many feel: “It’s deeply frustrating that we can’t indulge in the rich, explosive flavors we once enjoyed because how many bell peppers can you buy for Sh80?”

Restaurants, too, are feeling the pinch, contemplating menu adjustments or price additions. Ms. Mwangi, the Zimmerman market trader, succinctly captures the essence of the struggle: “If you stay here for long, you will see how very few customers will come to buy this fresh produce.”

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