Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki has signed into law a bill which allows the country’s finance minister to set the price of commodities deemed essential.

The Price Control Act is designed to keep the price of commodities artificially low to secure reasonable prices in shops.

Kenya’s finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta will be able to set maximum prices on goods including wheat, flour, rice, cooking oil and sugar after consultation with the relevant industry leaders.

The law had to be revised from an original draft which meant that the finance minister could set prices without industry consultation, but this was deemed to go against the WTO’s agreement on tariffs and trade.

This latest development follows a law passed earlier in the year when the maximum price of petrol at the pump became regulated by the Kenyan government.

The law has drawn criticism from firms importing into Kenya, as lower prices paid to importers means that neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania could now prove to be more viable regions to export to.