Tomatoes and onions have defied a general drop in prices of food items over the past year to hit record highs, handing producers a boon while squeezing households’ budgets

Official data shows that onions have recorded the fastest price growth among basic household items in the past 12 months even as others dropped.

A kilo is up 42 per cent over the last year to cost an average of Sh167 in March from Sh118 in a similar month of 2017.

In the period, tomatoes surged 11 per cent to Sh101 a kilo, making the two items  the only foodstuff to record price increases year-on-year, according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

Other items recorded drops, including cabbages, whose cost fell the steepest by 46 per cent to retail at Sh41 a kilo while Irish potatoes dropped 37 per cent to Sh61 over the past one year.

Kale (Sukuma Wiki) prices eased three per cent to Sh56 a kilo while the cost of carrots reduced by a quarter to Sh58 per kilo.

Farmers were last year hit by a prolonged drought that cut supplies and triggered a price rally among foodstuff, hurting households.

This year the rains started pretty early, helping to boost yields and supply and ultimately cool down prices, except for tomatoes and onions.

Due to price drops of more food items than increases, the KNBS said, year-on-year food inflation eased to 2.19 per cent in March from 3.83 per cent.

This lowered last month’s headline inflation to 4.18 per cent from 4.46 per cent in February since food price is crucial to measuring the rate.

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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.

At 4.18 per cent, the March inflation is within the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) preferred range of between 2.5 per cent and 7.5 per cent.

By NEVILLE OTUKI
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