In Nigeria, onions farming in has been seriously neglected by a lot of farmers. Only in the north is onion grown in commercial quantity.
It is often considered to be an agribusiness meant only for the peasant northern farmers. Another reason is the lack of government support as well as lack of processing industries across the country where this products can be processed to avoid spoilage since it is known to be highly perishable.
A lot of problems affects the production of this important crop, but despite this, a lot of farmers still make huge profits from the production and sales of this indispensable crop which serves as a condiment for almost every food eaten in the country.
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Aside the use of fresh onions as a food ingredient, it can also be processed to make onion paste, dehydrated onion flakes, onion powder, onion oil, onion vinegar, onion sauce, pickled onion, onion wine, beverages and more. Onions can be used as an ingredient in the industrial process of manufacturing moth repellants.
Onions provides the body with numerous health benefits since it contains essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, vitamins (Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Folate, Vitamin C) and minerals such as calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.
According to the 2015 FAO statistical report on highest onion producing countries, Nigeria with 621,000 tons annual production ranked 24th in the world and 4th in Africa behind Egypt, Algeria and Morocco.
In Nigeria, onions are grown mostly in Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Plateau, Bauchi and Kebbi states. The Aliero community, a local council area in Kebbi State is being regarded as the largest producer of onions in West Africa.
A lot of farmers have not shown enough interest in growing this crop due to the government’s failure to initiate an export plan. Thus, leaving the bulk of onion produced within the country for local consumption alone.
Another area that discourages farmers is the inability of the government to provide modern storage plants and processing facilities for the local farmers.
The farmers can only store their in their local silos for a short period of time before they start rotting way. Onion farming has been established to be a very lucrative agribusiness due to its unending demand, but a lot of investors and entrepreneurs are currently skeptical due to a number of problems. These problems are discussed below:
1. Lack of Export Plan
The government have failed to encourage interested farmers by not initiating any form of export plant for a massively produced crop as onion.
If plans for export are made, it will attract a lot of farmers and investors into this sector of agriculture thereby increasing production rates.
According to statistics, onions exporters earned $3.3 billion in 2015 and Nigeria was not among the 15 countries involved in the export of this produce.
2. Lack of Awareness
Currently, commercial production of onion is only done in the north. A lot of farmers in other regions are not aware of the benefits, demand and lucrative nature of this agribusiness and a lot hasn’t been done by the government and relevant agencies to sensitize these farmers on the benefits that lies in the commercial cultivation of onion.
3. Lack of Infrastructure
The local onion producers lack modern storage infrastructures to preserve this highly perishable crop. This contributes to the large amount of loss suffered by the farmers due to the unavailability of modern storage facilities and techniques.
Also, lack of storage plants leads to the hurried sales of harvested products at a ridiculously low prices just to avoid spoilage.
This hurried sales leads to scarcity once the harvest season is over as nothing is stored for the future. Another infrastructural problem is the absence of onion processing facility in Nigeria, therefore harvested onions that do not get buyers on time risks getting spoilt since it can’t be converted to another valuable product.
4. Lack of Credit Facilities
There have been no significant credit facility scheme for onion farmers in the country. These farmers have lacked support in terms of land acquisition, start-up capital, subsidized fertilizers and weed management chemicals.
The lack of government support for onion production in terms of credit facilities have discouraged a lot of other interested farmers.
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5. Poor Agricultural Extension Services
Local onion farmers in the country have always lamented the lack of agricultural extension service delivery to them. Agricultural extension remains the best way to reach farmers in the rural areas but a lot of problems such as inconsistent agricultural policies and poor decision making, poor and inadequate supply of input, poor distribution system, low morale of staff, poor funding and logistics, inaccessible rural areas and many others are the problems that have affected the delivery of extension services to local onion farmers.
6. Poor or Nonexistent Irrigation Systems
Onion is a plant that requires frequent irrigation, but since most onion farmers live in rural areas where irrigation is not available, they depend on rain which sometimes damage the crops when the soil is waterlogged.
7. High Cost of Transportation
The high cost of moving the farm produce from the rural areas to urban centers is usually very expensive, some transport companies charge as much as N1000 per bag. This is aside the cost of loading the bags into the vehicle.
8. Pest And Diseases
Another problem is that of pest and diseases. Common diseases that affects onion are downy mildew, botrytis, rusts, bacterial soft rots, pink and white root are common diseases that affects onion plant. Insect pests and worm attack are also very common.
1. The government and relevant stake holders and policy makers are expected to formulate policies that will favour a significant increase in onion production. Modern agronomy practice should be introduced while onions produced in the country are made open for export.
2. The government through various mass media should endeavor to educate farmers on the economic importance of onions and its large-scale production.
3. The government should provide support for the farmers in terms of infrastructure, subsidized farm items, credit facilities and extension services.
4. Pests and diseases can be easily controlled with pesticides or fungicides. This should not be applied without the supervision of an expert. Weeds can be controlled by uprooting or using herbicides.
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