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According to Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) 2014 report 50 percent of the red onions in Kenya are imported from Tanzania, making the red bulb onion one of the most attractive commercial farming practices that a farmer can do. Kenya farmers have been trying to address this but with little success.
Major types of onions farmed in Kenya are bulb onions and spring onions, with others in the onion family being leeks, chives, and garlic. The best areas suited for farming being Kajiado, Athi-River, Machakos, Narok, Nyeri, Karatina, Oloitoktok, Naivasha, Kieni, Emali and Mai Mahiu.
Bulb onions take 45 days in the nursery and 90 to 120 days after transplanting depending on the maturity of the variety planted. Short rains are great for bulb onions since they can be harvested between January and February but with the changing global warming, these patterns have changed tremendously. Initially local farmers were able to benefit during this time period, since there is low supply of onions from Tanzania at this time of the year.
From September 2019-onion prices have risen because of the weather patterns. Most onion farmers have sold onions at a farm-gate price of 50/- per kilo with the some hitting a mark of 80/- a kilo by April 2020. This as compared to 35/- earlier on in 2019.
Some of the health benefits of spring onions include lower blood sugar and decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels they can also be used in vegetable salads or as seasoning in soups.
Of the two types, bulb onions are more popular than the spring ones due to their long shelf life and sweet taste. Currently, there are two different varieties of bulb onions in the market. There is the small, thin and firmly layered onion that has a strong pungent smell from Tanzania. The second one is the big loosely held variety that is grown locally, in Kenya.