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Charcoal prices hurt ‘nyama choma’lovers

Bernard Gitau and Christine Musa @PeopleDailyKe

Nyama choma (roasted meat) is one of Kenya’s most devoured and appreciated foods that builds memories and creates lasting impressions.

From time immemorial the cooking techniques and flavours have not been altered, and most people like it just like that. Last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta on different occasions visited Burma and Kenyatta markets in Nairobi to savour their fresh and succulent nyama choma, an indication of its popularity.

But the ban on charcoal trade has skyrocketed its price directly affecting the price of nyama choma with customers bearing the cost burden. In February, the government temporarily banned logging for three months due to forest destruction hence pushing charcoal prices up by 27 per cent in the past month.

According to the latest Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data, the price of charcoal rose to an average of Sh107 per four-kilogramme tin in March. Although most Kenyans love nyama choma, not everyone know how to grill it like a pro and depend on those with unmatched meat grilling skills.

However, with the current charcoal ban, they have to dig deeper into their pockets for the popular social delicacy. Being the highest rise since KNBS started making public monthly prices of cooking fuel in 2007, low-income earners are bearing the cost as they cannot access other sources of clean energy.

Nyama choma being an age-old tradition of grilling meat on a direct flame until the outside fat is fully rendered and crispy, and the inside well cooked, use of charcoal is inevitable.

A spot check by the People Daily in some of the famous nyama choma joints in Nairobi, Nakuru, Kajiado, Narok, among others, it is not all rosy.

Before the ban, a 50kg sack of charcoal was retailing at an average of Sh1,000 in most parts of the country but currently it is ranging from Sh2,500 to more than Sh3,500. Some popular joints have been forced lay off some employees since consumption of nyama choma has drastically reduced.

Fried meat In Kitengela, a town popular for nyama choma,Charles Mutuko, assistant manager at Arusha Meat Den, revealed that roasted goat meat is currently ranging between Sh550 and Sh650 from the initial Sh480 per kg.

“We are buying charcoal at Sh3,500 from the initial Sh1,500 per 50kg bag,” he said, adding that they are now forced to prepare other dishes such as boiled and fried meat.

“Our biggest customers flock here for roast meat but we are finding it difficult to meet their demands,” he said. He also said they been forced to lay off some employees.

At Burma market, the trend is the same with Doreen Banja, a nyama choma trader indicating that they now buy a bag of charcoal at Sh2,600 up from Sh1,400. “It is a challenge that we are forced to charge our customers more as charcoal prices soar daily,” she said.

With the cost up the sky, a kilo of nyama choma which was at Sh600 depending on joints, is now more than 800. In Nakuru, especially at Kikopey nyama choma joint along Nakuru-Nairobi highway, the pain and distress is the same. According to George Mugo from Kenyatta Market, the business may no longer be sustainable if nothing happens soon.

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