Tuesday 24 November 2020

Niger Republic Imported Onions ‘Turn Gold’ As Floods Ruin Harvest In Nigeria - Bag Of Onion Now N90,000 From N30,000

Onion is the new gold — this expression has become popular on social media recently due to the scarcity of the vegetable.

Onion is a popular vegetable used in Nigerian homes for culinary and beauty purposes. However, it has become a topic for jokes after a sudden scarcity led to a hike in prices.

The bulb onion is mainly cultivated in Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Plateau, and Bauchi states.

The pocket of the average Nigerian seems to be under attack given the price hike that comes with Christmas festivities combined with fluctuating petrol prices due to deregulation and food inflation that hit 17.38 percent in September.


Apart from fighting corruption, the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has made agriculture a priority with is ‘Grow what we eat and eat what we grow mantra’.

Together with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), policies that would discourage preference for imported goods and increase access to funds at low-cost interest rates have been embarked upon.

However, the Nigerian farmer is still juggling the frogs of banditry, flooding, disruption of economic activities due to the #EndSARS protests, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and its movement restrictions, and rising transport costs due to fluctuating petrol price.

TheCable visited popular markets and spoke to farmers in Lagos, Oyo, Kano, Kaduna, Borno, and Abuja to understand why onion prices have skyrocketed while the price of tomato, which is also cultivated in the north, is stable.


At the two popular food markets, Mile 12 and Oke-Odo, traders said a bag of dry onions that was sold at N35,000 now has a price tag that is as high as N90,000.

A trader in Mile 12, who identified himself as Abdullahi, said the increase is due to flooding in northern states such as Sokoto, Kaduna, and Plateau.

“Too much water in the north this year. The weather really affected the growth of onions. Onions don’t need much water, ” he said.

Mohammed, who also trades the commodity, explained that the prices would rise in December before deflating in January due to the festive season.

He further said that onions purchased in the Niger Republic are cheaper, selling for N65,000.

“In Arewa, onions are too costly. We have Sokoto, Zaria, Gombe, and the Niger Republic onions. These Niger onions are N65,000 and the Arewa onions go for N80,000,” he said.

Habib Usain, an onion trader at the Oke-Odo Market, said: “The #EndSARS protests is the major reason why the price of onion has increased because transport was halted (non-vehicular movement) during the protest.

“Before the protest started, a basket of onion was selling for N10,000 to N11,000, but now it is selling at N17,000. Lorries transporting the onions into the market were between five to six but nowadays, we only see one or two lorries.”

The #EndSARS protest, which campaigned for general police reform and an end to police brutality, lasted for 13 days in Lagos.


Abdulrahman, an onion seller at Eleyele in Ibadan, said: “Na rain spoil onion for Sokoto. Before we buy a bag for N20,000 and N30,000 but now, it is N75,000, while the white one, N100,000”

“Before, that one is N200,” he said pointing to five pieces of onions displayed for sale at N500.

Aminu at Bodija market in Ibadan said he now only sources onion from Sokoto.

“We get only from Sokoto now and even the ones they have are not many. No more onions in Zaria, Kano, and other states we buy from. Before, we buy N30,000 but now, N70,000. Too much rain.”

He said the higher cost of transportation also contributed to the rising cost of onions.


At the onion section of the Kwanan Dawaki market in Kano, traders told TheCable that prices have been affected by floods, seasonal fluctuations, and the destruction that followed the recent #EndSARS protest.

Muhammad Gambo Mai Albasa, a wholesale trader of onion at Kwanan Dawaki, explained that some onions are imported to supplement the consumer demands.

“Onion is produced during the wet season and only a few are produced during the dry season. As a result, it is imported from places like Chad and even Sudan to make up the demand,” he said.

“As a result of demand and supply, the price goes up and down depending on when it is available in the market.

“The dry season is coming and most of our supplies to places like Aba and Lagos were destroyed during the end SARS crises. We lost a lot of money as a result and could not manage the market as usual.

“We watched how most of those products we took to the usual markets in Aba and Lagos were set ablaze. Definitely, we don’t feel it is now secured enough for us to buy the goods and supply them to the major markets after the losses we incurred.”

Adamu Mai Kayan Miya, who deals in tomato, said the tomato market is stabilised in Kano because of the activities of Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, who now owns a tomato paste company.

“Initially we used to produce ten tons per hectare but with the recent breed introduced to farmers, a lazy farmer can produce 40 tons per hectare. Hard-working farmers produce up to 70 tons per hectare.

“This is the reason why the market for tomatoes is stabilised in this area. The usual fear of losing the produce due to its short shelf life has now disappeared because he has created a ready-made market for it which he uses in making tomato paste.

“So we are not afraid of producing it in whatever quantity unlike before. This has also helped in stabilising both the price and the product in the market” Sani explained.


When TheCable visited the Bakin Dogo Onion market located in Kaduna Central Market, the story about flooding was not different.

Awal Usman, a spokesman of the Kaduna Onions Sellers Association, said onions are mainly sourced from Sokoto state and Gashua in Yobe.

“Because of the destruction of onion farms, occasioned by flooding, some farmers prefer dry season farming where there is no flood,” Usman said.

“By January or February next year, the market will be flooded with onions from dry season farmers.

“By then, they must have harvested their onions and the price will crash. What is currently in the market was produced during the rainy season and it is not enough because many onion farms were swept by flood the cost of transportation, especially, following the increase in the pump price of fuel, also contributed to the price hike.”

At Bakin Dogo market, a basket of tomatoes costs between N4,000 to N5000 depending on the species.

Traders said tomato prices will nosedive in the weeks ahead as new product floods the market. Like, onions, tomato farms were also affected by heavy rains.

According to Aliyu Isa, a member of the Kaduna Tomato Sellers Association, the prices of tomatoes went up because not much of it was produced during the rainy season.

“The price is coming down now the tomatoes from irrigation farmers are already coming to the market and it is expected to be abundant in the market in three weeks to come,” he said.


TheCable carried out a market survey at Gamboru and Tashan Bama markets in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.

Babagana Yusuf, a trader, told TheCable that a bag of old stock of onions that was previously sold for N14,000 now costs N50,000, while a bag of new onions sold at 15,000 now costs N40,000.

Allamin Umara, chairman of the Borno chapter of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), attributed the scarcity to shortages of seedlings in the farming communities.

“A few months ago, some stakeholders from Katsina and Zamfara came and seek the support of our farming community to provide them with onions seedling. So most of our seedlings were already given out to the farmers in Zamfara and Katsina,” he said.

“So even before the scarcity, we are already having shortages of onion seedlings for planting.”


In the federal capital territory (FCT), the prices of onions are also on the high side with a bag going for as high as between N39,000 to N41,000.

I went to market yesterday and all I wanted to do was fly away.

Tomatoes is now N1,400/basket with plenty abeg & Don Allah

Onions (new gold) – N2,400/basket you can't beg for this one.

This is Utako market oo, only God knows how Wuse market will be.

— That Igbo girl (@Adaamakar) November 15, 2020

The traders in three markets visited by TheCable blamed the increase in the price of onions on a number of reasons – COVID-19, floods, and inadequate storage facilities.

“During the lockdown, many farmers were not able to go to their farms so the quantity they produced this year (2020) cannot be compared to other years,” Ibrahim, an onion seller at Apo resettlement market said.

Illiya, another trader at Garki market, said some of the farms he sources onions from were flooded during the rainy season.

Via - The Cable

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