Is Onion Farming in Kenya a Profitable Agribusiness To Try?

Is onion Farming in Kenya a profitable agribusiness to try?

Onion farming has become a popular and profitable agricultural activity in Kenya. With a high demand for onions in both local and international markets, farmers have found success in cultivating this versatile crop.

You can opt to grow either bulb onions or spring onions.

Choosing the Right Variety

When it comes to onion farming, your success begins with selecting the right variety. Different varieties have unique characteristics and thrive in varying ecological conditions. Some popular onion varieties you can grow are;

  • Red Creole onion

  • Red Pinoy onion

  • Bombay Red variety

  • Russett

  • Jambar F1

  • Texas Early Grano

What is the best time to plant onions?

The timing of onion planting matters. In Kenya, you can plant during the short rainy season, between March and May. At this period, there is optimal soil moisture for germination and growth.

However, you can also plant from October to December, as long as your soil is well-drained to avoid waterlogging.

Soil preparation

At the seedbed, the seedlings stay for 45 to 60 days from the date of sowing. At this time, they are ready for transplanting.

Prepare the soil and ensure its of the right pH of between 5.8 to 6.8. it should be lose and well-drained. If using drip irrigation, you can plant in raised beds. If you are using sprinkler or overhead irrigation, you can use basin like structures. However, they should not be too deep.
Apply organic matter like well-decomposed manure and mix it properly with the soil to enhance soil fertility and water retention.

How to Ensure You Are Adequately Fertilizing Your Onions

Apply the right amount of fertilizers to meet the nutritional requirements of your onions.

In the early stages, apply more nitrogen for proper growth and achieve the right bulb size. However, do not over apply.

Also, apply fertilizers and foliar feeds containing sulfur, magnesium, potassium and boron for optimum growth.

Weed and Pest Control

Onions hate weeds. Weed management is crucial in onion farming as weeds compete with the crop for nutrients, water, and sunlight.

Mechanically removing weeds through hand-weeding or hoeing is labor-intensive but effective.

Alternatively, you can use selective herbicides such as Galigan.

Pests and Diseases Control in Onions

Like other crops, onions are also prone to pests and diseases. For this reason, you need to employ proper pest and disease management practices to keep your plants healthy.

Be on the lookout for pests such as;

Thrips. You can control using pesticides like Profile 440EC, Thunder, Confidor, among others.

Caterpillars. Can be managed using Profile 440EC, Thunder, Belt, Tihan, Coragen, Bestox, Benocarb, Escort, Pentagon, etc.

Some common diseases you should check out are;

Downey mildew. You can control with fungicides like Trinity Gold® 450WP, Daconil, Orius, Score, Absolute, and WetSulf.

Purple blotch. You can control using fungicides like Trinity Gold® 450WP.

Something else. Plant disease-resistant onion varieties, maintain proper farm hygiene, and practice crop rotation.

Yields and Profitability per Acre of Onion Farming

With proper care, onions can yield between 18 to 30 tons per acre in a season, although this will also depend on the variety.

For instance, Russett, Texas Grano, and Red Creoli can yield up to 30 tons per acre while a variety like Sivan F1 yields up to 13 tons.

Before purchasing a variety, know its yield potential.

The profitability of onions varies depending on the market conditions. That said, the average farm gate prices of onions is 40 to 60 shillings.

With a price of 50 shillings, thats a total returns of Ksh 1 million if you harvest 20 tons. Due to the high cost of inputs, this translates to a net profit of Ksh 600,000 to 750,000 per acre in one season.

Isn’t this profitable?

Onion farming requires careful planning and attention to detail throughout the entire cultivation process.

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