The Onion Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (OPMAN) recently announced the suspension of supply of onions to the South-East over the security challenges currently in the region.
The national president of the association, Aliyu Isa, said at a news conference on May 2, 2020 that the decision was based on the recent hijack of two of two trucks belonging to their members by suspected members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Aliyu told newsmen; “If the government fails to adhere to the demands of the association, we are shutting down the supply of onions to the entire South by Monday, June 7, 2021.”
Subsequently, onion farmers in the North have raised concerns over the deterioration of their produce followed by the refusal to supply to the South, as reports said many trucks of onions have been wasted since the suspension.
The decision, according to our correspondents, has made the prices of onions to increase considerably in the southern states, as many consumers have expressed concern over the development.
Apart from consumers, onion dealers in the region have described the decision as unfortunate and regrettable, adding that if urgent steps were not taken to address the situation including the security situation in the country, food security as a whole would become a major concern.
A survey of the current price of onions at the Ebonyi International Market, Kpirikpiri market and Eke Abba Market in Abakaliki showed that a bag of onions which was formerly sold at N6, 000 is now sold at N17, 500 while the big bag that was sold at N12, 000 is now sold at N35, 000, where available.
A consumer, Mrs Cynthia Okoh who attributed the price increase to the stoppage of supply and non cultivation of the commodity in the southern part of the country, said she had reduced the use of onion in her cooking.
Mrs Okoh added; “The stoppage of supply has drastically affected the market price of the commodity. Regrettably, most people use onions in all their cooking but a lot of us now select the meals we prepare with onions”.
“Before now, I couldn’t prepare Noodles for my children without adding some onions but since the price skyrocketed, I only use it when necessary. Recently, instead of cooking tomato stew, I now prefer to cook palm fruit stew. At least, I don’t have to spend N500 to buy just five pieces of onions.”
Miss Uche Abadu, an onion trader at the market, also lamented that since the decision to stop the supply, many of them who had some bags earlier had exhausted the storage while many had to increase the prices.
She said about four pieces of onion, depending on the size, are now sold for between N150 and N250 as against N50 and N100.
She appealed to the government to pay attention to the security situation by ensuring that there is free movement of foods and commodities from the North to the South, adding that if not checked, there would be increased hunger and poverty in the country soon.
A former special assistant to the Ebonyi State governor on fruits and vegetable market, Sir Emmanuel Uzor, noted that the state and federal governments were working assiduously to guarantee security of goods, services and persons in the state.
He described as unfortunate, the decision to stop onion supply, adding that the scarcity and price increment of the commodity would soon normalise as efforts were being made to revise the decision.
Households and consumers of onions in Akwa Ibom State expressed concern over the decision. Speaking with our correspondent in Uyo, Mrs Eno Akpan who runs an eatery along Uyo village road, said she had to spend more to buy onions.
She said during the #End Sars protest when the traders embarked on such stoppage, it triggered scarcity of the product and caused price of onions to rise by nearly 200 per cent.
Another consumer, Mrs Mary Udofia, a civil servant, took a swipe at the northern onion suppliers, saying no one should beg but allow them to execute their plan.
According to her, it is not compulsory that one should eat or add onions to food. There are so many alternatives to the product so if they choose to cut supply, let them do that, nobody will die because of it, she said.
She however, urged the federal government to talk to the traders to reconsider their stand.
Madam Elizabeth Udofia, leader of onion traders at Mbiabong market in Uyo, expressed disappointment over incessant blockage of food stuff to the southern states by northern marketers anytime there’s a little problem in the country.
Onion consumers in Imo State condemned the security challenge confronting the state, regretting that this had affected innocent onion marketers.
An onion consumer, Mrs ijeoma Nnadi, while interacting with LEADERSHIP Weekend, said the marketers were right in their decision to stop supplying to the South East over insecurity, as every life matters.
She said a situation where marketers displaying their products are being attacked, does not augur well for the state.
Collins Ibekwe said the marketers should be assured of their protection and advised the state government to extend the olive branch to the marketers and assure them of their safety.
The market leader in Egbeada, Chioma Nwaiwu, urged the state government to find a way of appealing to the onion marketers and provide adequate security in the state.
The state commissioner for information and strategy, Hon Declan Emelumba, in a reaction, said the state had put mechanisms in place to reach out to the leadership of the marketers with a view to resolving the matter.
The chairman, Maize Association of Nigeria (MANN) in Abia State, Onyekachi Erondu called for caution in dealing with the matter, describing it as a double-edged sword.
He said as much as they may have their grievances, he advised them to direct them to the appropriate quarters, and should not allow such to jeopardise their personal interests or businesses.
A teacher in one of the public schools in Aba, Madam Lillian Nkemdirim, who shared similar views with Erondu said they should be mindful that onions are perishable items with limited durability.
Union dealers at Ubani Ibeku Modern Market, Umuahia, the Abia State capital, said the move would put them out of business momentarily.
Cross River State
Onion dealers in Calabar, Cross River State said they are not finding it funny, stressing that the cut in supply and unnecessary extortion by touts while transporting the product to Calabar from the north had caused the traders untold hardship.
Chairman of Onion Dealers Association in Cross River State, Mr Etim Edet, lamented the multiple challenges faced by dealers.
He said the level of taxation makes the business discouraging, and urged the federal government to rise to the occasion and put an end to the security challenges.
“We don’t have stocks for now, we are losing so much. Some of the problems we face are unnecessary delays on the road, fear of being attacked, truck blockade, sometimes our onions are carted away by hoodlums. We are waiting to hear from our Sokoto branch chairman, whom we have asked to discuss with government officials and get back to us to enable us know the next step to take.”
In his remarks, one of the onion dealers in Bogobiri (Hausa/Fulani) community in Calabar, Shehu Umaru, said the cut in supply from Sokoto had made the business very difficult.
He said before now, dealers used to pay between N20, 000 and N30, 000 as levies to transport from Enugu to Calabar, stressing that the levy suddenly increased to between N180, 000 and N200, 000 lamenting that such increment made the business unpalatable.
An onion trader, Alhaji Abu Nuhu, said he was finding it difficult to defray the loan he acquired from a micro finance bank to plough into his business, stressing that he was afraid that he might not be able to offset his debt.
By In Rivers State, scarcity of onions has led to a sharp increase in price, as both traders and consumers have expressed fears that it would soon become a really scarce community.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Weekend in Port Harcourt, a restaurant owner, Grace Johnson, said onions which they used to buy at N40 at Creek Road Market was now sold at N100.
Also, a trader at the Mile One Market in Port Harcourt, Abdul Auwal, said a bowl of onions which was sold at N700, is now sold at N2000.
When contacted, the chairman of the Mile One Market Traders’ Association, Ndubueze Enyiuche Eze, described the development as worrisome and called on government at all levels to intervene.
Eze said: “It is not an easy thing. The truth of the matter is that it is not funny because it is a challenge to us. Government should assist in every way they can to ensure that onions get to us. They should do it for us.”
The leadership of Ogbete Main Market, Enugu State has announced plans to hold meetings with onion and stock fish sellers over the development.
The chairman, Ezugwu Ejike, disclosed this to LEADERSHIP Weekend, saying the increase in the price of onions was worrisome.
He advised traders not to panic over the threat, restating that they would look for a way forward during the meeting.
Our correspondent who interviewed onion sellers and consumers at the market observed that price of the commodity has increased tremendously.
Alhaji Sheriff Dauda, an onion transporter at the Hausa Market in Asaba in Delta State was unarguably distressed, wondering how bad things have become and which direction Nigeria is gradually drifting to. He said he had parked his truck for the past two weeks, owing to security challenges on the roads. He nostalgically recalled in pidgin, “Before now, as at April, road no bad like today, onion no cost like this.”
Findings by LEADERSHIP Weekend in some major markets showed that the price of onions has been irregular since the leadership of onion marketers in the North stopped supply. The development has forced many wholesalers and retailers of onions to increase prices, leading to serious complaints by consumers.