Onion Farming in Kenya:
How profitable is onion farming in Kenya?
This is a question ALL farmers interested in growing onion ask—all the time.
Based on my experience as an onion farmer and horticultural officer…
My answer is…
“You can get amazing profits growing onions in Kenya even if you’ve never done it before.”
But it doesn’t come easy.
Especially is you are not equiped with the WHOLE knowledge on onion farming in Kenya.
That’s why I am writing this post.
I want to share with you insider tips about growing onions… so that you make amazing profits if you decide to venture into it.
You Can Overcome All the Difficulties of Onion Farming Even If You’ve Never done It Before
All you need is the RIGHT knowledge, strategy and patience, then earning millions from onion farming will be easy as drinking water.
So how do you begin this onion growing journey?
Well…that’s my mission today.
I want to spill out all the secrets of growing onions…so that when you execute this dream, you make tons of cash.
To achieve this rather heavy mission (that I’ve placed on myself) I will discuss the following Key points.
- The Economy of Onion Farming. Does it Make sense?
- Onion Varieties that buyers love and give profit to the Farmer
- Areas suitable for growing onions in Kenya
- Environmental conditions that must be present for the successful production of onions
- How to market your onion produce so that the most profits come into your pocket instead of the brokers pockets.
Those points are so important…
Without them, making money farming onions is just a pipe dream.
PS: Don’t miss to read point 5. This is where all the money is.
Ready to know all these issues?
If you’ve answered yes, let’s get started.
The Economy of Onion Farming. Does it make Sense?
“Will you burn your hard-earned cash if you invest in onion farming?”
Well… It depends on how you approach the business.
If you are hungry for success, and you want to get profit from onion farming…
You’ll do it.
That’s why the economic aspects of onion production matter so much.
Therefore, the first thing you need to know is “Do the Numbers Add up?”
This stems from an old saying, “If it doesn’t work on paper, it probably won’t work on the field.”
To get started, let us examine the market demand of onion.
In Kenya, we have a serious scarcity of onions.
The shortage is so dire that farmers in oloitoktock, Nyeri, Rumuruti, Emali, Kajiado, and other onion growing areas, clear their stocks in less than a week of harvest because of the high demand.
To fill this market demand gap, traders have to go deep into the villages of Tanzania and Uganda in a frantic search for onions.
Now imagine if you were growing onions on your farm.
Right here in Kenya.
Onion Customers would be rushing to buy the onions from you.
And by giving them what they want, you would be saving Kenyan traders the hustle of going to a distant land in search of onions.
Can you now see… the great opportunity onion farming provides?
That said, let us look at…
The Cost of Production of Onions in Kenya
Now this is the elephant in the room.
Many farmers have been financially ruined because of either underestimating or overestimating the capital they need for onion farming.
To prevent you from falling into a similar pit…
Here, we will look at the following costs in great detail…
so that you don’t miss on anything that is vital for your success;
- Price of onion seed sufficient for one acre,
- Onion Pest control
- Onion Fertility management
- Labor for transplanting,
- Labor for harvesting,
- Labor for fertilizer,
- Labor for storage,
- And Marketing costs
If you intend to grow onions, ignore this SECTION at your own peril.
This post might look long, but it will save you a great deal if you decide to grow onions anywhere in Kenya.
Note that this is the most compressive onion farming guide in Kenya.
So sit back and relax—as I outline the secrets of profiting big from onion farming business.
Below is a breakdown of onion production cost for one acre.
Prices in Kenya shillings. As at writing this, 1$= KES 126
1 acre plowing
Basal Fertilizers NPK
1 bag(50 kilos)
Basal Fertilizers DAP
1 bag (50 kilos)
Basal Fertilizers CAN
1 Bag(50 kilos)
Labor for transplanting
Labor for harvesting
12 packs Each containing 50 nets
Management e.g. irrigation
*Prices may vary; above prices are only indicative
Why Is the Cost of Onion Production Higher Than Other Crops Like Maize& Beans is Justified?
To answer this question, I have to look at the potential returns per 1 acre of onion versa the cost of production as outlined in the table above.
Well, according to experts, one acre of onion can produce 16-30 tons.
Assuming that the weather is perfect, and you don’t encounter extremes—that may significantly affect your production, let us assume you’ll harvest 26 tons.
Assuming that you sell 1 kilo of onions at Ksh 30, that translates to KES 30,000 per ton.
Multiplying that by 26, you’ll make a gross sale of Ksh 780,000/=
If you subtract the costs above, you will earn KES 641,000/=
Assuming you pay taxes @30%, you will remain with KES 448,700 as net profit!
Now that profit is amazing. It beats the returns of the stock market, treasury bill and the money markets.
Though onion production is higher than maize, beans, and other crops, the potential returns are much-much higher.
Onion farming is the progressive farmers dream!
Onion Production Secrets that will Guarantee Profits
Let us be real.
The onion farming profits may look very good on paper—as I have shown you above.
But when you get to the field, things become messy.
That’s why you need to transfer these budget and philosophy that we have just discussed above to the field with absolute exactness or with very little variance.
To achieve this, you must follow the following steps without fail.
Step 1: Timing of Onion Production:
Onions can grow in almost every part of:
- Western Kenya,
- Rift Valley,
- Lower eastern,
- Upper Eastern,
- and parts of the Coast provinces.
However, there is one caveat.
You must do proper timing.
“What tha hell is proper timing all about?” I am sure you’re probably asking.
Well, it has to with:
When it comes to land preparation, for onion farming, you have to prepare the land during the dry season.
Doing so will allow you to remove and kill all the perennial weeds that could be problematic later in the season.
That’s not all.
It allows you create a fine soil surface that’s suitable for onion production.
Here below are the steps to follow as you prepare land for planting onions:
- Spray the fallow land with suitable non selective herbicide like roundup.
- Let the herbicide act on the perennial weeds for 5-7 days before you begin plowing.
- Plow the land once the weeds are killed.
- Harrow the land to break the big soil clods and to make the soil fine.
- Prepare raised bed for easy management of the field during transplanting.
Proper Nursery Preparation For Onion Farming Success
A nursery is where you will germinate your onion seeds into seedlings.
This means that your onion nursery is a vital cog in onion farming.
Without a healthy, well managed nursery you’ll be staring at failure in your onion farming business.
That said, how do you prepare your onion nursery… so that you’re guaranteed of success?
When you sow the onion seeds in the nursery, they should grow into:
- Healthy seedlings
- Highly vigorous seedlings that have the ability to resist drought, bad weather, pests and disease.
- This has to Be done on time. When you’ve completed making raised beds on your field, the nursery should be ready for transplanting.
Step 3: Grow the Right Varieties
Not all onion varieties are equal.
Some are superior to others in terms of yield per acre, disease resistance, storage life, and market tastes and preferences.
Avoid growing open pollinated onion varieties like red creole and Bombay red.
Though the aforementioned onion varieties have seed price is cheap, they also produce lower yields per acre.
In fact, the yield per acre is 50% lower than the Hybrid F1 varieties.
Another thing that influences the market demand of onions is the color and shape of the onion.
In Kenya, people prefer to buy round, red/purple color onion varieties.
Varieties that have a white skin like Texas Early Grano aren’t preferred as the purple/red skinned varieties.
To have the best success, go for round, red/purple colored varieties that have thin necks and you’ll never go wrong regarding the choice of onion varieties.
Follow this link to find out all onion varieties available in Kenya.
Step 4: Grow the onions in the right environment and harvesting 30 tons per acre of onions will be a walk in the park.
So what is the right environment for growing onion?
Onions can grow in a wide variety of soils.
From clay, sand, loam, though the best is loam soil.
Onions can also grow in areas where the temperatures range between 18-30 degrees.
But there is one place where onions can never grow.
In a place where water stagnates.
Onions need well drained soil to grow best.
Select the right environment for your onions and you’ll achieve untold success in onion production.
Step 5: Be Proactive in Your Marketing
One of the mistakes onion farmers do is to produce onions without knowing who will buy their produce.
Consequently, they end up having a harvest that takes too long to sell.
So how to you become proactive in your marketing?
All you need is to:
- Produce a high quality product that onion wholesale buyers need.
- Start marketing your produce early before harvest.
- Form business relationships with potential buyers at least 1 month before harvest.
- Do regular market surveys so that you can increase your bargaining power during price negotiations because you’ll be armed with the right price trends.
Onion farming is one of the lucrative business ventures in Kenya.
Those who have mastered the art of producing high quality onions, at the right time have only praised for onion production.
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