Onion farmers in West Pokot County are experiencing heavy losses due to a lack of market for the produce.
The farmers Thursday petitioned the county government to help them find market, noting that they had been forced to sell their produce at a throw away price to middlemen.
The farmers are currently selling a kilogramme of the onions at Sh28 down from Sh50.
Joseph Matukei, a farmer in Kerelwa village, said the region has favourable climate for cultivating the crop but a lack of market had adversely affected them.
“We are forced to sell our produce to middlemen who later transport it to big cities and sell at high profits,” he said. Mr Matukei said he had harvested 10 metric tonnes of onions from his two-acre farm and disposed of part of the produce.
“I have sold five tonnes to middlemen and earned Sh150,000 that has helped me clear school fees for my children. I have decided to store the remaining onions until prices rise,” he said.
A lack of market for the produce forced the farmers to form a co-operative society in the 2010 to help wipe out middlemen in the region, but the effort has not borne fruit.
Cooperative manager Clement Kodereng said the society has 600 members and they still face stiff competition from middlemen.
“Many farmers want cash on delivery but us we pay them after two weeks. This has discouraged many farmers from selling their produce to us,” he said.
Mr Kodereng said they decided to form the cooperative to eliminate brokers from the market because they had exploited them for long.
“The main aim of this cooperative was to protect prices of produce but we are unable to do so since we don’t have enough funds to purchase the produce,” he said.
However, the county deputy director of agriculture, Mr Joseph Khaemba, asked farmers in the region to form groups so that they can sell their produce in bulk.
He added that such groups would also help farmers buy farm inputs in bulk at a reduced cost.
“If we want to maximise profits from our produce we need to form groups and have a strong bargaining power,” he said.