The bumper harvest of onion recorded in Sokoto this year is translating into an income boom for its farmers in the state. Many of the farmers, who spoke to this reporter, could not hide their happiness over what one of them described as a rewarding development.
“This year‘s harvest is favourable and rewarding to onion growers. The weather was conducive while many youth went into onion farming thereby flooding the market with the produce. And despite the rise in production this year, there is no glut because onion is an export commodity and now the demand is high,” disclosed the Chairman Sokoto Onion Merchants Association, Alhaji Murtala Bawa Mai Albasa.
The onion depot in Kara market Sokoto, comes alive Mondays and Fridays with not less than 20 trailer loads of onion leaving Sokoto for various destinations within and outside Nigeria.
“We transport thousands of sacks of onion weekly especially now that Christmas is fast approaching,” he added.
From Sokoto, the chairman revealed, the commodity is transported to Lagos, Port Harcourt, Aba, Owerri, Ondo among other places within Nigeria, and to countries including Ghana, Cameroun, Cote d’Ivoire and Cotonou in Benin Republic.
Our correspondent in the state reports that dealers buy directly from farmers at N26,000 to N28,000 a sack and sell in the market for N30,000 to N32,000.
A farmer, Abdulra’uf Muhammad of Boyekai village in Goronyo Local Government Area of the state asserted: “There is as much onions as customers, who come from within and outside Nigeria, need to buy.”
The 50-year-old farmer with about 35 years’ experience in onion farming, described the 2018 harvest as golden as he realised 1,500 sacks compared to last year’s 900 sacks.
“The market is favourable as my take home now rose from thousands to million because with 1,500 sacks which cost N27,000-N28,000, I am going to make appreciable profit,” an elated Muhammad said.
Another farmer, 45-year-old Alhaji Abubakar Giyawa, who said he has put over 20 years in onion farming, added that the year 2018 harvest was quite fulfilling.
“Onion demand in the state which has moved from local to export, has brought along with it succour and blessing to the farmers across the state,” he enthused.
He added: “This development has enabled our market to be glut-free because no matter the quantity, it is rapidly sold to exporters and the local merchants.”
Abubakar revealed that he got 30 sacks of onion last year which was sold at N20,000 each but that this year, he got 50 sacks which will sell for between N26,000 and N27,000.
“I spent about N200,000 for the onion I harvested and I realized N1.25 million from the effort, I thank God for everything.”
For 42-year-old Bede Akaulor, an onion merchant from Imo, it is now 14 years since he ventured into onion trade. He noted that the price for a sack of onions in Sokoto this year was between N31,000 and N32,000 as against last year’s rate of N25,000 –N27,000.
He said a sack of onion cost between N2,500 and N3,000 to transport from Sokoto to Imo. “I transport between 20 and 30 sacks of onion every week and before Christmas I am expecting to transport over 120 sacks,” he said.
The merchant however alleged extortion by security personnel at checkpoints on major roads from Sokoto to Imo.
“We spent not less than N8,000 at checkpoint for a trailer load of onion. It is a serious drain on our capital since it is a weekly trip that we undertake, especially now that Christmas is around the corner.”
He disclosed: “When sourcing for onion to take to Imo, I travel to Sokoto, Aliero in Kebbi, Kano and Zaria, all year round. I make sure I go to all those places to source onion.
The chairman of Sokoto Onion Merchants Association, Alhaji Murtala Bawa Mai Albasa, corroborated the allegation of extortion at checkpoints and described it as their greatest challenge.
“We part with N10,000 to N20,000 at every point amounting to N100,000 on a trip which is not healthy for our business,” lamented the chairman of the association with a membership of over 500 farmers.
“Checkpoints at the South-South and South eastern parts are harsher than the Southwest. From Sokoto-Lagos, the road is a bit sanitized by the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff merchants of Nigeria.”
Meanwhile the onion farmers and dealers have made passionate appeals for provision of modern storage facilities and more support from government in the form of soft loans and others such as fertilizer, pumping machines and pesticides.