Soaring demands, flooding and poor storage facilties are the main causes of the skyrocketing price of onions in Nigeria, a Premium Times check has revealed.
Households in Nigeria now have to dig deeper into their pockets to buy onions, one of the most commonly consumed vegetables in the country as prices have risen sharply due to a biting shortage.
In the past month, prices have been on a steady rise as scarcity hits markets across the country.
Consumers have taken to social media to trade complaints about the surging prices, comparing price rates in different regions of the country.
The price of a bag of onions has shot up by nearly 200 per cent, according to price checks done by this reporter in markets in at least five states across Nigeria.
During a visit at the Olojudo market, Ido Ekiti in Ekiti State, both sellers and buyers who believe the spike is seasonal gave an insight into how onion prices and availability is increasingly becoming a problem.
Prices differ in different regions depending on the availability of onions.
“The price of onions is usually higher this time of the year, November to December because this is the time when farmers grow this crop,” Mallam Dogo, an onion dealer, said.
“A bag of onions sold at the rate N18,000 before is now sold for N58,000,” he said.
“N100 worth of onion is not enough for me to prepare a meal for my family again,” she said. “As you can see now this onion I am holding is N500 but before I can get this quantity at the rate of N100.”
“I think this increase is happening every year. I’ve seen that by the end of the year, onions are disappearing from the market,” she said
Another consumer, Idown Agbaje, said “Government should try to find a solution to this inflation and make the crop available to the people.
“During the ember months, onions are usually very scarce and the ones you can see are always very high and our government is not even making any plans in providing any storage facilities for the produce to be available all year round,” she said.
In Oko market in Asaba, Delta State, dealers attributed the scarcity of onions to a lack of storage facilities resulting in the price hike.
Musa Aliyu, an onion dealer, said “because of inadequate storage facilities, onion storage has been a major challenge especially by this time this year”.
“As (of) at last year, a bag of onion was sold for N6,000, at the beginning of this year it was sold at the rate of N25,000 and now a bag is sold at N70,000,” he said.
He urged the government to build storage facilities for traders to store their perishable crops.
At Dei Dei market in Abuja, a bag of onions which was previously sold for N15,000 now costs an average of N40,000 to N42,000, Mallam Lawal, an onion dealer at the market said.
Saidu Baba, who trades the commodity at Ose market in Onitsha, Anambra State, linked the hike to flooding and seasonal scarcity.
“This is the period of onion scarcity but I will like to let you know that flooding also affected it this year,” he said. “The price has gone up from N22,000 to N70,000 now,” he said.
Checks also revealed that in Ondo State, a bag of onions, which was previously sold at the rate of N20,000 now costs N62,000.
At Farin-Gada market in Jos, Plateau State, a bag of onion which sold for N17,000 before now costs an average of N60,000.
Why are the prices rising?
Meanwhile, the vice president horticulture, in the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Nana Bashir, also affirmed the position of the retailers.
Speaking with this reporter on Wednesday, she said the high cost of onion is caused by flooding and lack of storage facilities.
“Storage facilities are what is causing the increment. Apart from that, COVID-19 and flooding also affected the production this year.
“The major onion producing states are Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna, Bauchi, Plateau, Sokoto and Kebbi. And most of these areas are affected by flooding this year,” Mrs Bashir said.
“Onions production is from February, March and April, you will find out that, in this period we were in total lockdown and people could not access their farmland.
“So production was also slowed down but with the little one, we had to produce in the rainy season floods set in although by this time each year, we experienced an increase in the prices of onions. But it has never been bad like this year,” she said.
‘’Most of the onion production is done in the dry season but farmers still produce during the rainy season but not at the large scale. The reason is that onions don’t like too much rain. Unfortunately, this year, many areas where onions were planted have been affected by the floods,” she said.
According to her, Nigeria can stop the yearly increment of the prices of onions “if there is a good storage facility for onions in the country.”
She urged the government to provide storage facilities and “also try empowering the onion sector”.
“You know, onion is very perishable up till now I don’t think we have gotten a commercialised way of storing onions,” she added. “But the government can provide storage facilities for the farmers and also empower the sector as they did for rice and in other sectors.”
Onion, which belongs to the family Alliaceous, is one of the consumed vegetable crops in Asia and Africa, especially Nigeria.
It is a perishable crop that cannot be stored for long after harvest in an ordinary state.
It is used in the preparation of popular delicacies and almost every family in the country use it as a major ingredient in their diet.
In Nigeria, onions are grown mainly in the northern part of the country, namely Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Jigawa, Plateau, Bauchi and Kebbi.
Some of its numerous health benefits include lowering of cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels.