Prices of onions, one of the most commonly consumed vegetable in the country has surged by 171 perecent as scarcity hits markets across the country.
Seasonality and outbreak of diseases of the crop have reduced Nigeria’s stock level of dried onion bulbs which has forced prices to rise in November.
“A 50kg bag of onions which was sold at an average of N14,000 in September, now sells for N38,000, indicating a 171percent rise in price” Musa Idris a trader at Mile 12 market told BusinessDay.
“Prices of onions are usually high during November through December because that is when farmers cultivate the crop,” Idris said.
He also attributed the further rise in prices to disease outbreak in some onion farms in Kebbi state – a top grower of the crop.
“We travelled to Kebbi to buy onions and we could not get enough volumes to buy. Farmers told us that their farms were attacked by a disease they called Zazzalau and Raba,” he added.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Nigeria cultivated 996,519 metric tons of dry onions and 248,072 of green onions in 2017.
Africa’s most populous country is not among the top 20 growers of the crop, the FAO 2017 data shows.
“We experienced glut in August through September before the prices suddenly picked up,” Mohammed Sule a farmer in Kaduna said.
“We cannot even store our onions because of inadequate storage facilities and this makes us record huge post-harvest losses,” Sule said.
He added that onion farmers are unable to improve their livelihoods owing to the huge postharvest losses they record each year as billions of naira are lost in the process.
He called on the Federal Government to support farmers in the area of storage and processing of the crop to increase shelf life.
Nigeria records huge postharvest losses owing to inadequate store facilities and poor road network for vegetables which experts say is costing the country $9billion loss yearly.
Onions can be cultivated across the entire state but mainly grown in Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Plateau, and Bauchi.
It takes an average of 3 months to crop any variety of onions. Nigeria grows the two major types of onions – bulb and spring.
The bulb onion is much more popular in the country and has three major varieties, red, white and green, while the spring onion is mainly used for salads and fried rice.
It offers excellent health benefits and a lucrative venture for any aspiring farmer.
Regular consumption of onions helps to reduce the risk of cancers and lower blood sugar levels, as it contains allyl propyl disulfide that helps to reduce the glucose levels by increasing the amount of insulin as well as aid digestion.
Globally, Indian – largest grower of the crop has placed a ban on export of the crop as drought and heavy monsoon rains have reduced the country’s stock level, forcing prices up.
To keep prices in check, India announced that it will import over 100,000 metric tons of onions. Opportunity Nigerian growers would have leveraged.
Experts say this is because farmers do not cultivate the crop all year round and inadequate storage facility has made the country miss-out from the opportunity to export to India and Bangladesh.