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How onion farmers lost millions to disease

After purple blotch destruction,farmers in Wurno have cleared the land to start onion production afresh

Onion farmers have recounted how Purple Blotch, a fungal infection, attacked their crops resulting into significant loss.

The farmers lamented that Purple Blotch, known as Dan Zazzalau in Hausa, mostly affected the rainy season onion-producing areas in 2019.

“It caused stunted growth in the onion plants, making them unable to yield fruitful results,” one of the affected farmers, 60-year-old Alhaji Aliyu Nuhu stated.

The large-scale farmer with over four decades’ experience in onion production lamented: “I suffered a huge loss of about N7million from the Dan Zazzalau scourge of 2019. It crippled our income and rendered the rainy season a calamity to onion farmers.”

Similarly, Mustapha Shehu, 46, disclosed that, “In 2019, I realised just N1million instead of about N8.5m from the rainy season onion farming. We incurred billions of naira loss, but I pray for divine intervention to make up for the loss.”

Nasiru Aliyu and Kabiyu Maianguwa said they lost over N3 million each.

Maianguwa, who reluctantly commented on the issue, said “I don’t know what to say on the huge amount of money I lost to the onion scourge. I am still counting my losses which runs to about N3million. I am among thousands of farmers who suffered this fate.”

Also, Alhaji Muazu Auwa,50, with 30 years’ experience in onion farming, stated that he invested N650,000 in the rainy season farming but lost about N300,000 due to the Zazzalau attack.

The farmers said they had never experienced such adversity as in the 2019 rainy season attacks where all onion farmers were subjected to heavy losses which resulted in a shortage of the commodity across the onion producing areas.

“This was quite challenging as we are used to smiling to our respective banks after harvest,” Shehu said.

Meanwhile, following the fungal infection attack suffered by the farmers, the CBN/Anchor Borrowers Onion seedling production was last week launched in Wurno Local Government Area of Sokoto State.

Auwa also expressed optimism saying,“We are putting our hopes on the seedling production programme. We will raise them to make up for the heavy loss we encountered. We are going to nurture the seedlings for 30-40 days after which they would be ready for planting, and after 3-4 months we harvest it.”

“With luck on our side, we are going to flood the market with enough onions when the dry season harvest commences.” Maianguwa also said: “We would brace up to the challenge and use this Anchor Borrower to launch ourselves back to fortune.”

Secretary-General of the Onion Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (OPMAN) Aliyu Isah Samama disclosed that the seedling production programme targeted 10,000 farmers from eight states in Northern Nigeria –Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa and Bauchi.

He said they have distributed 100,000 varieties of 2.5kg seeds with longer shelf life, adding that the programme was carried out to counter the effect of a fungi disease called Purple Blotch caused by Alternaria Porri and Downy Mildew, resulting in 50 per cent drop in the rainy season onion production across the country.

“The Anchor-Borrower Programme, which is part of the federal government’s effort to promote farming, is not giving cash to farmers but seedlings through the cluster system. Farmers form a group called cluster to benefit from the gesture,”Samama explained.

The OPMAN scribe added: “Instead of cash which some farmers tend to divert to other uses, they get seeds, raise them under the supervision of experts and make use of them in their farms for mass production.”

He said fertilisers, chemicals, pesticides, water pumping machines and sprayers were also provided.

He noted that millions of onion farmers across Nigeria suffered the attack on their crops whichled to the present scarcity of onion in all onion producing states.

“As it is now, there is scarcity of onion at major depots such as Sokoto, and Aliero in Kebbi State, making the price to shoot up. A sack of onion which sold at N15,000-N16,000 has climbed to N22,000-N27,000 in Kebbi.

“So we are now banking on the dry season production through the Anchor Borrowers Programme to ensure bumper harvest for onion consumers to get it at low-cost as they used to,” he noted.

When Daily Trust visited the Kara onion depot in Sokoto, the hustle and bustle typical of the market was absent. The depot which used to have thousands of sacks of onions had less than a dozen.

The usual presence of onion merchants, especially from the southern part of the country such as Lagos and Ibadan was also not there.

The onion market, which was hitherto full of activities, was virtually empty with few people around lyingabout or just whiling away time.

The Sarkin Albasa in Sokoto State, Alhaji Maidabo said: “I just got a phone call from Port Harcourt that there was no onion in the market there.

“This is the first time we are experiencing this kind of situation in the onion business. We are apprehensive over the outcome of this shortage.

“Around the same time every year, the price of onion tends to be low, after Christmas, but this time, the story is quite different as you can see,” he said.

Both the OPMAN secretary and the Sarkin Albasa called on the government of all onion-producing states to do something on the infestation and current scarcity to cushion the effect on consumers by assisting onion farmers boost production in the dry season.

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