3 Factors Making Tomatoes Expensive & Alternatives to Use at Home

undated image of a food vendor arranging tomatoes
A vegetable vendor inspecting her tomatoes at a market in Kiambu County in 2021.

Tomato prices have in the last two weeks skyrocketed with experts attributing the recent trend to three factors including heavy rains which have pounded most parts of the country in recent weeks.

A spot check by Kenyans.co.ke within Nairobi and neighbouring towns revealed that a medium-sized tomato is being sold at between Ksh15 to Ksh20.

Previously, Ksh20 could fetch between three to four tomatoes.

Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke, Juliet Kwenda, an agricultural field officer, explained tomatoes thrive during warm weather conditions and the recent rains have seen the supply of the commonly used kitchen ingredient go down. 

Tomatoes on display at a stall at Muthurwa Market, Nairobi
Tomatoes on display at a stall at Muthurwa Market, Nairobi
The Interrogator

"There has been a lot of rain lately and tomatoes are one of those crops that do not thrive in such weather conditions. The rains also affect production because the treatment of the tomatoes in such conditions also becomes hectic.

"Additionally, the cost of production has really gone up. That is something that needs to be addressed by the government. Tomato seeds have definitely been skyrocketing and that poses a challenge for those farmers," she stated.

Notably, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Agriculture Survey for September projected a 30 per cent drop in output compared to the harvests witnessed in July.

Farming of the food commodity was also expected to drop by close to 35 per cent compared with acres farmed in July 2023.

On the other hand, Kwenda added that the recent increase in transportation costs had influenced the current pricing. This mostly affected traders who imported tomatoes from Uganda.

"With the fuel cost, the prices will definitely go up," she noted.


With the recent increase in prices, Kenyans are opting for alternatives in the kitchen. These include;

Tomato Paste

One of the alternatives commonly used is the tomato paste. Currently, a 400-gram sachet goes for roughly Ksh185. This is the price of 12 tomatoes. With the festivities, one could also get the ingredients on offer.

On average, depending on the meals, households may use between 8 to 12 tomatoes in a day. A can, on the other hand, can be used for two to three days if used sparingly.

Other Vegetables

For protein meals like meat and beans, people can mix a small portion of tomatoes with other vegetables like carrots, or bell peppers (pilipili hoho).

Blend Tomatoes

Alternatively, instead of buying tomatoes, others prefer to blend half of the tomatoes to be used with water to make a paste for cooking.

Therefore, one will use tomatoes occasionally for a day to cover two days.

A photo of a supermarket shelf in Kenya.
A photo of a supermarket in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • . .