Onion prices in the country have been all over the map over the years, from being so high that even buying one or two bulbs is out of reach for certain families to being so low that they can be had for next to nothing during times of surplus.
Farmers still grow a lot of it, despite the fact that the price can swing wildly depending on a number of circumstances and/or market pressures. Farmers in Plateau State have begun growing it as it is currently planting season.
A farmer in Jos, the Plateau State capital, Mrs Atong James, said apart from the price fluctuation in onion, another essential point is that some of the farming inputs are quite expensive because onions are readily plagued by insect and has to be sprayed and well fed.
Mrs. James, a farmer in the Lamingo neighbourhood of Jos, says that every onion farmer needs to use insecticide. This is in addition to the time and effort required to acquire and use fertiliser effectively.
“Onion planting is already in process. The onion industry appears to be flourishing this year. It may be more profitable when we harvest this one, she reasoned, given that the price of a big is presently between N50,000 and N60,000.
John Ajiji, another Jos farmer, has been planting onions for the past four years with great success. Since onions are grown throughout the dry season and require the irrigation system to flourish, he concurs that this year’s lack of fuel is their biggest difficulty.
He claims to use up to two gallons of fuel per day, making the daily cost N7,000—a substantial sum for a small holder farmer.
Ajiji, a traditional title holder and farmer in Jos North and Jos East, said that getting enough fertiliser has been an ongoing challenge for farmers for as long as he can remember. He mentioned that they are planting now in anticipation of a harvest in April of next year, but that the cost of fuel and fertiliser to sustain the farm until then could be prohibitive.
He explained that last year he obtained approximately 32 bags from about 3 little pots of seedlings, and this year he is more hopeful, therefore he is still going to go with the cultivation because of the gain he is hoping to make.
Ibrahim Gambo, a vendor at the vegetable market in Jos who also grows onions, discussed the benefits, price swings, marketing tactics, and production of onions.
He explained that he always makes a profit when he plants and harvests onions because he stores them and waits until the price rises before selling, all the while buying and selling from other farmers and merchants.
He said that he not only stores the onions he has gathered himself in anticipation of a price increase, but that he also buys from others and stores them for the same purpose, and that if farmers and vegetable vendors knew the profit in onions, they would be much more interested in the industry.
According to Ibrahim, the price of onions is completely arbitrary; nonetheless, they tend to move in the range of “the higher the price, the less the quantity demanded and the lower the price, the more the quantity demanded.”
Again, anytime big amounts of onions are brought into the market, the price generally lowers and the opposite is also true. That’s often how the cost of onions is set. It’s available today for a certain price, but tomorrow it’ll be different. It’s possible to buy it at one price in the morning and another in the afternoon,” he explained.