Meat lovers turn to matumbo as meat prices soar
Posted Tuesday, February 5 2013 at 14:24
John Ngure, a father of four living in Nairobi, Kenya, does not recall the last time his family consumed beef because meat prices have maintained an upward trend in the past months in the country, making it unaffordable for many.
Every time Ngure feels his family should consume meat, he buys tripe (known locally as matumbo) at a butchery in Pipeline, a residential area in the east of the capital where he lives. "Meat has become unaffordable. You need at least 4.1 U.S. dollars to buy a kilogram, unlike stripe, the same quantity of which costs half that price," said Ngure.The 42-year-old, who works as a casual laborer at a factory in industrial area, noted his family is now used to taking tripe in the place of meat. "They have no choice. I usually buy half a kilogram at 1.14 dollars, which serves them well. If I am to go for meat, I would spend more for the same quantity. I believe that is not economical, " said Ngure.
Ngure's predicament is shared by thousands of low and middle-low income families in the east African nation, many of whom have shunned meat because of high prices. In Nairobi, a kilogram of meat is currently going at between 4 dollars and 4.6 dollars. Prices are higher in middle and high- income areas. On the other hand, a kilogram of tripe goes for between 2.1 dollars and 2.3 dollars. Tripe has, therefore, become the best alternative for those who cannot afford meat. So popular is the food item that in many low- income areas in the capital, traders are opening butcheries selling tripe, locally known as matumbo, alone. "Business is not bad," said Patrick Kariuki, a trader running a butchery selling matumbo in Kayole. "People are buying the food item more than they used to."
When he started the business, Kariuki was selling mainly meat, but after seeing demand for the commodity drop as prices rose, he started to bring tripe. "I saw that I could not survive selling meat alone. So I began selling tripe, which became popular. After some time, the demand for the food item outstripped that of meat. I, therefore, had to switch from meat tomatumbo," he said. Kariuki noted demand for the food item is still on the rise. "When I started selling tripe year-and-a-half ago, people were buying only about five kilograms a day.
But demand has now doubled and if meat prices continue to rise, I am certain it will increase, " said Kariuki. He noted most of his customers buy between half a kilogram and one-and-a-half kilograms. "From my experience, this does not happen with meat. Most of my customers used to buy a quarter of a kilogram of meat. Some would buy less than that because of high prices," he said. His customers, however, are not only individuals or families. Traders operating food kiosks are also buying the food item to cash in on the popularity of tripe among Kenyans.
Meanwhile, in most food kiosks and some hotels scattered across the capital, matumbo is among the most popular items on the menu. Most food kiosks serve matumbo with ugali (corn meal) or rice and sukuma wiki (vegetable). A meal of matumbo, ugali and kales goes for as low as 0.68 dollars, cheaper than a meal that consists of meat, which goes at least 0.91 dollars in most food kiosks in the capital. "Matumbo is affordable and, I believe, serves the same purpose as meat since both of them are protein," said office worker Samson Ndunge, who eats the meal at a food kiosk along Mombasa Road on the outskirts of the city center during lunch time.
Ndunge noted the popularity of the meal has seen the operator of the food kiosk raise its price. "He raised the price of the meal in January by 0.11 dollars. We cannot complain since this is still affordable if you compare with other prices," he said. While releasing inflation rate statistics last week, Kenya Bureau of Standards (KNBS) for the first time noted that rise in prices of tripe helped to push up food and non alcoholic drinks' index, which increased by 1.24 percent. The price of matumbo, according to KNBS, increased between December last year and January by 0.4 percent. Inflation in the east African nation currently stands at 3.67 percent, compared with 3.2 percent in December 2012.