Fresh consumption declines


Kenya: Consumption of fruits and vegetables has declined over the past months due to high cost of food, new research shows, indicating declining earnings for small scale horticulture farmers and vendors.

The research carried out in 1,650 retail markets and commissioned by development agency USAid indicates that consumption dropped in volume and value in the July, August and September.

“Retailers sold 837,658 metric tonnes of fresh produce valued at Sh38.5 billion, representing a trend of decreasing volumes,” said the research conducted under the Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project.

The value of consumed vegetables declined by 8.3 per cent while that of fruits declined by 25 per cent. “These declines are attributed to escalating costs of basic commodities due to recent inflation,” the report said.

Inflation was 14.49 per cent in June and 16.67 per cent in August. It rose to 18.9 per cent in October, according to the Central Bank of Kenya, indicating possible harder times for horticulture farmers and vendors targeting the domestic market. The drop in sales mainly affected hawkers who are the primary vendors of fruit and vegetables in Kenya representing 42 per cent of fruit and 36 per cent of vegetables volume, according to previous search. They compete with green grocers, small shops, and kiosks.

“The decline in fruit and vegetable sales over the past three months impacted hawkers the most severely with a 35 per cent drop in volumes and a 25 per cent decrease in value over June. Green grocers were also affected by a 29 per cent decrease in volumes and a 20 per cent drop in value.

The crops under focus in the survey include bananas, passion fruits, mangoes, cabbages, green maize, Irish potatoes, kales, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. But the high cost of food has helped to stabilise earnings especially for brokers and vendors. For example, the value of retail sales for July and August remained constant at Ksh12.2 billion each month despite a drop in volume by 19,091 metric tonnes.

In the three months, vegetables constituted 70.7 per cent of fresh produce retail trade valued at  Ksh25.9 billion.

Tomatoes recorded the largest drop in volume, 14.4 per cent in the vegetable category and a large increase in value of 61.3 per cent, attributed to shortage during the wet season.

During the wet season, tomatoes are sold at a premium due to low availability. The research found out that Irish potatoes, in contrast, registered an upward trend in volume, at six per cent and a 33 per cent decrease in value, resulting from an increase in production during the reporting period.

Fruits constituted 29.3 per cent of total fresh produce retail trade valued at Ksh 12.6 billion sold throughout three months. Fruits retail trade decreased in both volume and value terms with the exception of ripe bananas, which slightly increased in volume and value.