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Narok group buying red onions from all-comers

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A group of four traders is buying red onions from all-comers across Kenya. The group led by Lenny Gitonga is currently facing a deficit of 100 tonnes per month with supply dwindling due to delayed rains in the 2019 rainy season.

“At the moment, the supply of red onions in the market is low while the demand is high, our previous suppliers from Mt. Elgon have stopped supplying us compared to a similar period last year due to changing weather patterns that made them plant late,” said Gitonga who is the leader of the group.

“We are now relying on supplies from areas like Naivasha, Nyeri and imports from Tanzania where farmers practice irrigation instead of depending on rain-fed agriculture, but the supply is not enough to meet our demands,”

Gitonga and his other three colleagues started the group in 2017 after reading successful stories about other farmers in the media.

The group encourages farmers to aggregate their produce so as to make it easier to sell and bargain collectively.

“We are looking for big sized onions that normally cost an average of Sh10 in the market, our price however, will depend on the distance traveled to source for the produce, as such it is negotiable on a willing buyer willing seller basis,” said Gitonga.

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Lenny Gitonga displays red onions bought from farmers in the past.

According to the 2019 Economic Survey Report, production of onions in Kenya dropped by half in 2018 from 68,000 metric tonnes in 2017 to 35,000 metric tonnes. 21,000 metric tonnes was imported to curb the shortfall.

“Farmers who would like to sell to us can inform us through a phone call +254 724 608 960 and let us know the quantity they have, we will then visit the farm and check on what we want (size- big, color – red and the shape – round),” he said.

Once they ascertain that the quality is up to their standard, they will then pay workers to plug the onions in the farm if the farmer has no money then deduct from the total sales amount. The cash is paid on-farm after grading and scaling of the produce.

“The biggest challenge we face is competition from other traders in the market and conning by farmers,” he said.

In October 2018 for instance, Gitonga and company lost Sh60,000 to an Oloitokitok based farmer whom they paid after promising to sell us 50 tonnes of produce.

“The farmer switched his off phone after getting a better deal elsewhere and did not refund the money, nevertheless, we sometimes have to pay farmers affront to avoid losing produce,” said Gitonga.

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