Onion growing farmers in Kieni, Nyeri county have a reason to smile after the introduction of a new fast maturing variety that will give them a competitive edge in the market.
While farmers face a steep competition from Tanzanian imports, the East African Seeds have launched a new onion variety- Red strike F1 that matures within 90 days after transplanting that will improve their production and returns.
Improper curing of onions has put Kenyan onion farmers at a disadvantageous position in the market with traders opting to import the produce from neighboring Tanzania and Ethiopia.
According to Martin Karanja who in charge of product development at the company, besides the onion’s high production, it has a rich deep red color which makes it ideal for fresh produce market.
He further noted that the onion’s thin neck will prevent water from penetrating the onion bulb causing a pink rot.
“This onion’s curing ability is on high notes and uniform. It cures down quickly meaning that our farmers will have a good market edge from the imports,” he said.
He further asked the farmers to be patient and await full curing of the onions before harvesting in order to compete with the imports and not sell their produce at a loss. Well cured onions can be store for up to three months thus reducing the post-harvest loses.
The onion that was launched by the East African seeds on Wednesday is set to increase the farmers’ profits as well as production per acre in Endarasha, where farmers rely on onion farming to sustain their livelihood.
While a majority of the farmers were producing below per in an acre, the variety has been touted to double the farmers’ production to between 22 and 25 tons per acre.
In addition, the onion variety is said to be resistant to drought with its fast maturing ability and diseases such as pink rot and Downey Mildew which cuts production by over 50 per cent if not well managed.
Mr Daniel Mugo, a seeds agronomist with EA seeds said that for farmers to produce optimally, they have to time their spraying and should not use one product for a long period of time.
“They should also ensure the practice early weeding to prevent the weeds from supping into the plants nutrients,” he said adding that top dressing and spraying should always be done at the right time.
He also urged the government to support farmers with water pans and dams so that they can cultivate their farms throughout the year to enhance food security in the county.
Farmers on the other hand, asked the government to standardize prices in the market to help farmers leverage on the profits for their produce on and off season.
Ms Margaret Njenga said at farm gate prices, she has been selling her onions at Sh30 per kilogramme while market is selling at between Sh60 and Sh80 per kg.
“We are willing to apply proper farm management and compete with our competitors at a standardized price,’ she said noting that with the Red Striker F1, she has minimized management and production cost due to the onion’s ability to resist blight, drought and notorious disease.