Onion farming in Uganda

Onions famously known as Butungulu are one of the most used vegetables in the country. There are two types of onions grown in Uganda and these are the spring onions and the bulb onions. These are used in cooking food, making salads and some use it for treating different ailments. Onions on a large scale are grown in the districts of Kabarole, kabala, kapchorwa, Bukwo, Kasese, kanungu, Bulambuli, Mbale and Rubirizi. Onions grow best in well hydrated areas although they can also be grown in a greenhouse which is an expensive way to go for onion farming.

Onion farming in Uganda is a profitable business due to the ready market that is found in the markets around the country and they are also exported to outside countries after proper packaging and management. The profitability of onions depends on the way they are planted, managed, weeding process, and fertilization, spraying to avoid diseases and pests and how they are handled after harvesting.

onion growing in uganda

The market for onions in Uganda

There is a ready market for the bulb onions in Uganda since the majority of homes both urban and village homes use their onions on a daily basis to prepare food. The pricing of the onions depends on their availability on the market and where one is buying them. Some of the ready markets for the onions in Uganda are:

  • Hotels

  • Restaurants

  • Schools

  • Universities

  • Hospitals

  • Homes

The most common onions that are found on the Ugandan market are the mid-seize ones since they are the ones that are mostly used across the country although you will be able to get the large sized ones as well and other types.

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Varieties of onions grown in Uganda

The common onion varieties that are grown in Uganda include Red pinoy, Bombay, Jambar F1 and Red passion F1. Spring onions are also easy to grow and you can even plant them in your backyard garden. Spring onions have health benefits of lowering blood pressure and it is also mainly used in seasoning of food and making salads.

What you need to know about growing onions in Uganda

Preparation of the nursery bed

Onions in Uganda are first placed in a nursery bed before being transplanted to the main garden. Below is what you need to do for the seed bed before placing the onions.

Prepare the seedbed 2 to 3 three weeks before placing the seeds.

The seedbed should be raised for about 1.2 meters and irrigate the raised seedbed a day before planting the seeds.

Add at least 20 litres of fertilizers to the soil (per metre) and after irrigation and raising the seed bed, add the onion seeds and then cover with mulches.

Make sure that you water the seeds both in the morning and in the evening till germination starts. Germination starts at around 12 days after planting.

Seedling planting

The seedlings are always ready for transplanting at around six weeks at a height of 13 to 15 meters. You need to water the seed bed so that the soil is soft as this will minimize damage caused to the roots, select only the healthy seedlings for transplanting, prune the roots and leaves and then plant the seedlings in a row with spacing of 12cm. transplanting is done either in the morning or evening and immediately after the transplant, water the seedlings so that they are held in the soil properly. Plough and prepare the land three months before transplanting the seedlings.


There are two major ways in which you can irrigate onions and this is by the use of sprinklers, drip irrigation systems and sprays. The sprinklers and sprays are a cheaper option as compared to the drip system and it is advisable that you use the drip system only if you can afford it. Laying an irrigation system may cost around 10m and yet the other two cost 3 to 4 million Uganda shillings.

Onions that are planted directly using seeds without a nursery bed will need at least to be irrigated twice a day that is in the mornings and in the evenings especially if they are being grown in a dry area.

Over irrigation should be avoided as it leads to the poor growth of the bulbs and if you notice stagnant water around the farm which means that you should reduce the irrigation. It is also better if you irrigate at least three times a week in order to have a good onion yield.

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Pests and diseases

The majority of the diseases that attack onions can easily be managed through spraying with chemicals and growing disease resistant varieties. Onions are mainly attacked by downy mildew, thrips, maggots, leaf miner and purple blotch which reduce the quality of the onions produced.

Management and harvesting the onions

Onions are always ready from 3 to 5 months from the date they were sowed but it also depends on the variety chosen. In order to get good yields, you will need to first care for the onions from the time that you plant them until harvest time.

The best time to do onion harvesting is when you notice some of the onions dying up because if you harvest them before that, you will find that most of them will rot.

When harvesting, cut off the whole stem and leaves and after harvesting, dry the onions so that they do not get spoilt. After drying onions, store them in a moist free place.