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Consumers opt for white maize in lifestyle shift

Whole maize flour, considered nutritious, is not a favourite anymore, a new survey on changing consumption patterns shows as people shift to other foods.

Instead, sifted maize flour consumption is on the rise among rural households, while it is the most preferred flour among urban households for its taste, cooking quality and availability.

Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development carried out two cross-sectional expenditure surveys in 2013 and 2015 in rural households, and one rapid urban consumer survey this year that also shows a decline in maize consumption.

Despite its dominance as a major staple, maize is on a downward trend with rural households consuming straight-run posho declining to 78 per cent in 2015 from 86 per cent in 2013, the research indicates. The average weekly consumption of straight-run posho per household, the Tegemeo survey shows, declined to 6.9 kilogrammes in 2015 from 7.9 kilogrammes in 2013.

“Our analysis reveals that rice, plantain (banana) and potato are the alternative foods that continue to gain popularity among both rural and urban households. The proportion of households consuming these items increased from 54, 29 and 41 per cent to 61, 34 and 44 per cent between 2013 and 2015,” said Kevin Onyango, a researcher at Tegemeo Institute.

He said the decline is consistent with the fall in the national per capita maize consumption, which was 83 kilogrammes in 2009 but is currently estimated to be not more than 78 kilogrammes.

“However, though increasing in prominence in the rural areas, sifted maize flour is consumed by only 26 per cent of the rural households, recording an 11 percentage point increase from that recorded in 2013,” he said during release of the survey this week.

Just like posho maize meal, wheat flour consumption is declining among high-income households. Onyango said urban households prefer sifted maize meal because it is readily available in nearby shops, cooks faster and tastes better. “This fits them well considering the busy urban lifestyle,” he added.

The analysis also finds price not to be a major consideration in the discrimination between posho and sifted maize meal as the difference is minimal.

“Prices for posho and sifted maize meal are not significantly different and the choice between the two is often based on other preference attributes such as health considerations, convenience and ‘experience’ with the product,” said Onyango.

Sifted maize flour currently costs between Sh105 and Sh110 for a two-kilogramme packet at retail outlets. “Besides, the time a consumer spends queuing at a posho mill, he purchases a 2two-kilogramme tin of maize grain at Sh89, pays Sh10 for milling, and gets charged Sh5 for packaging.

The consumers surveyed also said, at the end of the day, some flour is lost during milling. So they end up going home with some deficit,” said Onyango.

For instance, residents of Kibera and Kawangware who were surveyed say they prefer sifted maize meal to posho meal because of the reduction of associated costs. “Despite its nutritious value, posho maize meal consumes a lot of fuel to prepare, water and time,” Kawangware resident Peterson Kibaba told People Daily.

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