KENYA – Following the move by the Tanzanian government to increase the prices of onions, which are drier and have a longer shelf life, Kenyans are grappling with a shortage of the vegetable and an inflated pricing.
The situation is expected to worsen by the end of August, with the vital household vegetable recording a 40 percent increase in price alongside other essential food commodities such as eggs (60 percent) and sugar (55 percent).
According to the Central Bank of Kenya’s latest Monetary Policy Committee Meeting minutes, onions, both bulbs, and leeks recorded the highest year-on-year price increase, with the highest being a 22.2 percent rise as of July 2023.
Traders have started going to new import markets such as Ethiopia and Somalia, which incur additional transportation costs compared to Tanzania’s.
About 50 percent of the red onions in Kenya are imported from Tanzania according to the UN- Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) 2014 report.
Production locally has been depressed in recent years by rainfall challenges and increasing post-harvest losses.
The cost of irrigation, which was said to total an average of Ksh5,000 per day, and an increase in electricity cost (over 60 percent between July 2022 and 2023), have also been key attributes to the rise in Kes 40 per kg production cost of onion.
With all factors considered, consumers are now purchasing onions at a tripled price of Kes 20 from Kes 7. This is a translation of about Kes 150 for a kg.
“There was reduced harvest this season because of the reduced rain and I had to spend a lot of money on irrigation. On average, an acre produces 14 tonnes, but I only harvested 9 tonnes,” stated Francis Njuguna, an onion farmer.
“I made a profit because the scarcity greatly contributed to the pricing. Even the inputs were very high. I harvested 21,000 kilograms and sold Ksh75 per kg. My cost per kg was Ksh40.
Njagi assured Kenyans onions are fast maturing and take two to three months, so once production resumes, there will be stable supply and prices will start coming down.
Contrary to the situation in Kenya, onion traders are counting losses as several bags of onion continue to go bad due to the closure of the Niger border as a result of the ongoing coup in the West African country.
In an earlier report, the traders noted that they had to sell a bag of onions, which originally costs GH¢1300 for GH¢100 because they had gone bad upon arrival in Ghana.