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How fish farmers, bad weather hampered onion farming in Jigawa

Harvested Onion

Onion farmers in Jigawa State are said to have faced difficulty in the last farming season following the acute scarcity of onion seedlings in the market.

The seedlings became scarce after fish farmers discovered their importance in fish farming and therefore bought them in large quantities to feed their fish.

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Unfavourable weather condition also contributed to the scarcity of the seedlings as the few that were lucky to get them on time, lost them to bad weather.

About 40 to 50 percent of farmers in Birnin Kudu Local Government Area of the state that had developed nurseries for onion seedlings also lost them to poor weather condition.

Those affected by the unfavourable weather were the farmers that developed their onion nurseries around August last year.

Most of the onion nurseries melted as a result of the high moisture content in the soil around the period. Only a few survived the disaster after farmers applied garlic in their various nursery farms.

The introduction of garlic helped in regulating the moisture content of the farms and that assisted some of the nurseries to scale through. Yet some of the farmers harvested their produce at an early stage of development for fear that they may not mature to the normal harvesting date.

Based on this horrific experience, most of the farmers delayed developing their onion nurseries till around January this year, after both the rain and the harmattan seasons were over. That assisted in the production of the produce and reduced the huge gap in its availability this year.

Following the two phenomena – fish farmers and poor weather condition – the onion seedlings become a scarce commodity and the price soared by over 200 percent.

Farmers that hitherto bought their seedlings within their communities, now had to travel to neighbouring Kano State to get them.

Speaking to Daily Trust, Malam Haladu Yusuf, a dealer, lamented over the activities of fish farmers in the state who resorted to buying onion seedlings instead of fish feed, noting that since onion seedling is gradually replacing fish feed, onion farmers have been having problem.

The fact that the fish farmers do not only purchase in bulk but all round the year has made the demand for onion seedling grow higher.

At the time of planting, there would be competition between the farmers on the one hand and the fish farmers on the other.

The dealers of the seedlings always tend to cash in on the competition of the demand to create artificial scarcity.

This forced the price to skyrocket. At such periods most farmers find it difficult to get the seedlings and, where it is available, it is sold at exorbitant price.

According to Malam Haladu, in order to purchase the seedling last year, he had to go to neighbouring Kano State and buy at an exorbitant rate.

Following the acute scarcity of the seedling, which happened to be the most serious in the recent past such that the smallest measured which used to cost N800, was sold for as high as N3000 per tin.

The most disturbing part was not even the high cost but that even with the money one had to follow through some people to assist him before it could be sold to him.

Another factor that contributed to the scarcity of the seedling was poor weather as farmers that were lucky to get it in time, still had to contend with the high moisture content in the soil which their nursery farms could not withstand.

The normal farming process of onion is to develop nursery farms, after which the products will be transplanted but in this year’s farming season there was unfavorable weather condition.

Most of the nurseries melted, making it look as if nothing was planted in the farms. Only few survived half way and they were harvested before reaching the required 120 days period.

The early harvest implied that the produce must be harvested as early as in spring because any attempt to allow them to go beyond that may end up in bad harvest.

“Fish farmers contributed to our woes this farming season. They now rely solely on onion seedlings as feed for their fish. The rate at which they buy the seedlings has caused the product to be scarce in the market.

“Poor weather condition did not help matters either as the few onion farmers that have preserved seedling could not raise good nursery as the seedling farms melted away at the stage sprouting.

“Only a few among them were lucky to have some of their nursery survive the disaster with the help of garlic application. Although many had to harvest their produce half way.

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