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Farming and Livestock

Massive hike in price of onion seedlings could result in shortage of the much sought-after vegetable

16 January 2024
Reading time: 3 minutes

Borno State is a major producer of onions – but farmers say they cannot afford to buy the seedlings and experts say this could drive up demand and increase prices.

There is a distinct possibility that there will be a shortage of onions in Nigeria this year – farmers in Borno State say the price of seedlings has increased to such an extent that they can no longer afford them.

Onions are the most-used vegetable because they are so favoursome.

Borno State is a major producer but many irrigation farmers have decided not to buy onion seedlings this year because they simply cannot afford them. They say this is adding to their woes because there is already a high-cost-of-living crisis in the country.

The price of seedlings, they say, has gone through the roof. That, compounded by increases in the prices of petrol, pesticides and manure, has put buying seedlings out of their reach.

This could well lead to a shortage of onions in Nigeria this year.

The price of onion seedlings started rising last year but, the farmers say, this year they have reached sky-high levels.

RNI spoke to farmers in the state, many of whom confirmed they would not be planting onions this year because of the costs involved.

Mustapha Bulama said: “Every year I used to farm onions because they brought in good money for my family. But I am poor and, because of the price increases, I cannot afford to grow onions this year. I have no option. I will not be able to engage in this year’s irrigation farming. Last year we bought a row of onion seedlings for about ₦4,000 but this year one row costs ₦25,000

Adam Yusuf told RNI that many farmers had decided not to grow onions because of the prohibitive cost.

“I used to plant about 400 to 500 rows of onion seedlings but this year I couldn’t afford it. I was able to plant only about 150 rows.”

Mala Ali said the high costs involved in irrigation farming were just too much for him this year.

“Irrigation farming is costly. Apart from seedlings, the prices of petrol [to run water pumps on generators], pesticides and manure have all increased and you can’t always get what you need at the market. If you don’t have enough money, once you get everything you need to do irrigation farming, you still won’t make a profit. In the end you will still be at a loss.

“I was able to plant onions last year and I profited from them. But, unfortunately, this year I simply cannot afford it.”

“The high cost of seedlings – and the increase in commodities – this year has forced many farmers to stop growing onions and that is going to cause a shortage soon,” said Adamu Kabu Mohammed, an expert on food security.

“Many farmers can’t cultivate onions this year because most of them can’t afford to buy seedlings at the current price of more than ₦20,000 naira per row.

“We experienced a shortage of onions last year because the price of seedlings had already started going up. As a result, many didn’t grow onions and, because so few were cultivating them, the demand was great and that increased the price of onions to record levels. A 50kg bag of onions was sold at about ₦100,000. This year the price might go even higher because so many farmers will not be growing onions.”



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