Onion is one of the most commonly consumed vegetable crops in the world and widely eaten by Nigerians, as there is hardly a local Nigerian dish that does not require the use of onions in its preparation. However, this food item has become scarce and where they are available, the sizes look miserable and the prices are high.
The scarcity and persistent increase in the price of onions has become a major concern to many households, restaurants and hotels in the country in recent time. Many Nigerians are eager to know the reason for the scarcity, small size of available onion bulbs and the solution to the continuous rise in the price of onion.
At the start of the year, a basket of onion sold for ₦20,000 in many markets in the country and suddenly it rose to ₦35,000 in August and has increased further to ₦85,000 in December 2020. This represents an increase of 325% when compared with the price at the beginning of the year.
MSMEsToday findings reveal that the recent increase in price is linked to seasonal fluctuations in demand and supply of onion, while some blame it on the #EndSARS protest. However, MSMEsToday research unit can authoritatively reveal that there are more to the scarcity, and high cost of this essential food item than the aforementioned reasons. The major factor that triggered the price and scarcity of onions is the recent flood that struck the onion producing states such Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kano among others. For instance, the flood that affected 11 Local Government Areas in Kebbi State destroyed as much as 500,000 hectares of farm lands including onion, rice, millet, sorghum, maize and sugarcane farms.
Apart from flood, many traders have also attributed the rise in price to general increase in price of other items, which reflected in the country’s inflationary rate. In September 2020, the inflation rate in urban areas of the country grew by 14.31% compared to September 2019. The inflationary rate further increased to 14.23% in the month of October, which also indicates a persistent increase in 14 months and the highest recorded since March 2018.
According to another trader at the Mile-12 market in Lagos, the sudden increase in prices of local fertilizers has impacted the production of Onions and also affected the price of onions and many other farm products. He stated further that 50kg bag of fertilizer was sold around ₦5,000 and ₦6,000 but rose to an average of ₦19,000 representing an increase of more than 200%.
On the other hand, some traders attributed the current situation in onion production and rise in price to insecurity in the country. According to them, many farmers could not go to their lands anymore due to the activities of Boko Haram, armed bandits, and kidnappers terrorizing them in the North. Truck drivers, who move this and other commodities across the country, have a fair share of their experience of the negative effects of insecurity in the country, which make it difficult to convey goods from the North down to the south.
No one knows when this situation would abate, nor when the prices of food items like onions that have skyrocketed would drop to the affordable level of the ordinary Nigerian. However, the one thing that is sure, is that if government fail to deal with insecurity in the land, we must all prepare to face poverty, hunger, starvation, disease and a worse onslaught of attacks by armed bandits in the very near future. More so, it would be interesting to see how government plans to help farmers who have lost their farmlands, crops and means of their livelihood to flood this year.