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Onion farming: Goldmine waiting to be exploited in Kenya

It is a goldmine waiting to be exploited. Yet one does not need to look too far or prospect so hard to find it. Even though the onion has played second fiddle to traditionally cultivated crops in the country, it might just be the next big thing in Kenya's horticulture. And in a manner of speaking, become the answer needed by the Kenyan farmer to lift himself out of poverty. Its commercial potential is simply enormous, according to experts well versed in the art and science of onion cultivation in the country. They say that onions have a high profit margin compared to other crops traditionally grown in the country, even though the Kenyan farmer is yet to find this out. According to Mr. Joseph Mureithi the principal at Waruhiu Agricultural Training Centre (ATC) in Githunguri, onion cultivation is capable of raking in the big bucks. The training center teaches farmers on sound agricultural techniques through field demonstrations. Mureithi says that a net of onions weighing between 13-14 kgs fetches $10 on average or $9 per kg. With proper management a hectare (2.5 acres) of land can bring forth between 14-17 tonnes of the crop, translating to between $11,000 to $13,000, which is not a bad return for the small-scale farmer. “Cultivation of the crop is very profitable, even when the farmer is only managing to get $4 for their net of onions. This is still good money,” reiterates Mureithi. Farmers cultivating the crop can hope for even higher returns, should they be using high quality certified seeds. Even though 17 tonnes of the onion crop produce is good money any day, the farmer can harvest up to 23 tonnes of Jambar F1 (an onion variety in Kenya) from just an acre. This means that if the crop is retailing at $9/ kg, the farmer is capable of earning $18,000 and in a far shorter period, since the variety takes only three months to mature.
Compare that to what the farmer can hope to earn from cultivating cabbages. A head of cabbage will fetch $0.2 on average, when the market price is good, says Mureithi. Given that an acre of land is able to produce up to 20,000 heads under the right conditions, a cabbage farmer will get $4,400 at the end of the day. Monsanto Kenya, which sells seeds of the Jambar F1 hybrid (an onion variety in Kenya) are convinced that their variety is the best ever in the country. “We have done a lot of market intelligence which shows that our onion variety is the best in the country,” states Erastus Matete of the commercial vegetable seed section at Monsanto Kenya. The same goes for the onion variety Red Passion F1 (an onion variety in Kenya), whose seeds are sold by Simlaw Seed Company. This variety is able to give between 18-23 tonnes from an acre, according to James Nderitu a sales and marketing manager at the company. “The Red Passion F1 (an onion variety in Kenya) is twice the yield compared to the open pollinated varieties,” says Nderitu. Onions have other advantages besides, what looks like fetching good profits over such crops as cabbages. They have a longer shelf life of up to three months, according to Mureithi. On the other hand Matete adds that Jambar F1 (an onion variety in Kenya) has made it possible for farmers to plant the crop for up to three times in a year. This is in contrast to other types of crops which can only be cultivated twice in a year.


  1. Is the price quoted in terms of retail sales to end consumers? Or wholesale if the farmer is selling to a reseller? Please advice

  2. I am really impressed with the attitude expressed on this site for being simple, open, honest, caring, hardworking and sincere, qualities that go together in a business activity that you rely on to maintain strong communication lines with your customers.

  3. Thanks for your inspiring article.
    The cost of 9 Us dollars per Kg of onions looks very expensive. Is that the Kenyan retail price or Western world retail price? Please kindly clarify. I am warming up to become an Onion farmer and want to get facts correctly.

  4. I am inspired by this piece of information. As a starting farmer I am looking forward to learning more and more from you. Could you please provide more information on the market? I intend to start onion farming by mid March 2014 in Kendu Bay, Kisumu county.

  5. This is really nice and I need to do some at nakuru kindly help how to start forward

  6. hi all , how many grams of Jambar 1 do i need to buy for 1 ACRE???

  7. @anonymous 20:23 1 kg goes for 1 acre, half goes half acre and so on...

  8. does anyone have a break down of the production costs all am seeing are returns

    1. yes sir. please consult nearest Monsanto agent

    2. Yea the breakdown is:1acre takes about 1.5kgs @ cost of 18,000 for hybrid but for jamba f1 1.5kgs will cost around 40k...
      the cost of the nursery..4-5k
      seedbed preparation....8k
      fertilizer 75kgs...............4800
      weeding after every 2weeks
      top up 75kgsx2............6k
      herbcides galiganx2....1500
      the above applies if the shamba Is tours but if You lease...additional cost of 25k depending on your place
      totals....about 100000-110,000