By Gloria Irabor |
Onion is one of the most commonly consumed vegetable crops in Nigeria and around the world. In 2012 alone, an estimate of about 240, 000 tons of green onions and 1, 350, 000 tons of dry onions were produced in Nigeria, with the country ranking sixth amongst the top ten producers of green onions in the world, and 11th in terms of dry onions production, with China and Japan respectively on the No. 1 and 2 spots for green onions production, and China and India on the No. 1 and 2 spots when it comes to dry onions production. According to data from Fact Fish, a statistics and data research company, Nigeria had a world share of 5.5% out of a total of 4, 339,925 tons of green onions produced in 2012 and a 1.6% share of a total of 82, 815, 927 tons of dry onions produced around the world in 2012. However, it might interest you to know that Nigeria had its peak production of green onions in 2001, when it turned out 277, 912 tons of the vegetable, the highest output since 1960, when the country had an output of 71, 000 tons. On the other hand, dry onions output peaked in 2008, with about 1, 365, 670 tons, compared to an output of 350, 000 tons produced in 1960. As common as the cultivation and distribution of the onion vegetable might seem to many people in Nigeria, it is indeed big business to a lot of others, with traders in the commodity having an association known as the Onion Traders Association of Nigeria.
Grown mostly in Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Plateau, Bauchi and Kebbi States, the Aliero Community, a local council area in Kebbi State, Nigeria, can lay claim as its home in Nigeria. In Aliero, onion is produced in such large quantities to the extent that, as a cultural tradition of the land, it is given out for free every February. Most of the people in Aliero and its environs, including Maiyama and Gwandu, both in Kebbi State, are onion farmers. The people of the land make a livelihood out of it and meet their needs with it. Hence, Aliero is described as the Land of Onion.
The people of Aliero pride themselves as the largest onion farming community in West Africa, not just because they get high patronage from other onion traders in the Southern, Eastern and other Northern parts of Nigeria, but also because they export their commodity to neighbouring countries such as Benin Republic, Niger, and Cameroon.
The price of a bag of onion could go for as much as N20, 000, but could fall to as low as N2, 000 when there are no proper distribution channels. The cultivation of the commodity usually commences during the dry season, or as soon as the rain subsides, usually at the middle of September to October, every year. The onion is planted for 40 days, after which it is removed from the soil for replanting. Afterwards, a local fertilizer is applied on it and, after 60 days, it becomes ready for the market.
The harvested onions are preserved in silos because of the absence of modern ways of preserving them. It is sad that most other Nigerian onion producing communities such as Aliero lack modern processing and preservation plants. These are the areas the Ministry of Agriculture needs to look into. It is also an opportunity for private business people to explore. If Aliero can produce this much using local methods of processing and preservation, it is left to be imagined how much more Nigeria can produce if onion cultivation, preservation and export is made a priority.