As the impact of the coronavirus pandemic weakens economies worldwide and countries shuts their borders in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease, Kenyan onion traders are finding it difficult in getting regular supplies from their source market, Tanzania.
The border closure in the country as forced the prices of onion to rise sharply as supply from Tanzania falls.
The present predicament the country finds itself has raised concerns from Kenyans who believed the nation has all it takes to supply the crop in abundance in Kenya.
Chairman, Kenya Tourism Federation, KTF, Mohammed Hersi, in response to the worrying situation opined that the country well known for producing the best onions and other farm produce is suddenly relying on Tanzania for its supplies.
According to him the new found love for sport betting among Kenyans with the hope of making quick fortune is luring young able men away from farmlands, leaving the land untilled.
Also, nation.co.ke, an online medium, reports that households in Nyeri have to dig deeper into their pockets to buy onions as prices rise sharply due to a biting shortage.
The price of a kilogramme of onion has shot up by 86 per cent, selling at Sh150 up from Sh80 last month.
The new price has been caused by a shortage of supply from Tanzania which normally floods the markets with its high-grade onions.
Traders are now being forced to rely on local crop that is selling at a wholesale price of Sh100 per kilo.
“At a time like now we are usually selling the Tanzanian onions which flood the market and earn us good profit but with the closure of boarders and limited movement, we are relying on what is locally produced,” said Mr Cyrus Gichuki, a trader at the Nyeri open air market.
Though Nyeri’s Kieni Constituency is a top onion producer, traders in the county often prefer importing onions, saying they are cheaper.
“The imported onions are cheaper, sold in bulk unlike the local ones that are weighed in kilos,” added Mr Gichuki. He said that the local farmers sell their onions before they are mature, making them tom perish faster.
The traders, who were also importing peas from Tanzania, have increased their price of by 25 per cent, from Sh80 to Sh100 per kilo, in the last three weeks.
“We are expecting prices to continue going up since a majority of the items we sold came from Tanzania,” said Mr Charles Kiama, a trader, adding that prices of oranges have shot up from Sh80 per kilo to Sh100.
Farmers on the other hand have explained that they are forced to sell their onions at high prices to avoid making loses.
“While our neighbours enjoy support from the government which reduces their cost of production, I have invested heavily in cultivating and harvesting the onions and buying farm inputs just to produce a bulb of onion,” said Mr Warui Kahinga, a farmer in Kiawara.
They now want the government to cushion them from being pushed out of the market.
Potato prices have shot up by 30 per cent with a 17kg bucket of the commodity selling at Sh650 up from Sh500.
However, with increased rainfall being experienced in the country, there is availability of vegetables such as green collards, spinach, cabbage, courgettes and carrots.
On his opinion on the rising cost of the commodity, Mohammed Hersi wrote:
Covid19 will teach us many lessons
Time immemorial we grow the best Onions and many other farm produce. Suddenly we are told there is a shortage since Tanzania used to supply us with most of the onions.
Kenyans we behave like we are a land of Oil & Minerals. Tuache Maringo, we need to go back to basics. Travelling across Morocco they grow their own foodstuff and I saw tonnes and tonnes of onions.
I am also aware we became a betting nation where young men left the land to be tilled but to bet their way to poverty that is why we have growing slums across all urban cities. I was shocked when I saw a report that in one month alone Kenyans spent Ksh 30B and Sportpesa alone raked in Ksh19B in a single month.
Let me help you understand what is Ksh 19B. A 4 star hotel of 300 Rooms will gross a revenue Ksh 1.4B in a good year while a betting firm can rake in Ksh 19B in 30 days then you wonder why Kenyan are getting poorer and don’t tell me they pay taxes. If Kenyans used that money to do genuine business they would have created wealth for themselves. The ownership of those betting firms are mostly foreign. You rake in 30B in one month then spend less than Ksh 1B on various sponsorship is nothing but deception. Good riddance they are gone.
Folks time to make farming look cool, we need to farm our own Onions time to go back to basics.
To my TZ neighbour we closed the border to human traffic and not cargo. You get upset and cause a ruckus. Selling onions to us was a benefit to your farmers and I can only wish you the very best of luck. Bon chance Mon Amie.
As always I choose to remain an optimist