Why onions has become the “new gold” in Nigeria

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The price of household food items has recorded tremendous spike in recent weeks, with consumers and households particularly complaining about the price of Onions, which they now call the “new gold”.  

The persistent increase and scarcity of onions in major markets have become a rather interesting topic in recent times as the price of a big bag of dry Onions sells for an average of N80,000, while some markets sell for as high as N85,000 in Lagos State.  

Some traders have termed the increase as just a seasonal fluctuation, while some have blamed it on the #EndSARS protest. However, there is more to it than meets the eye, which is why Nairalytics, a research arm of Nairametrics which tracks the prices of major food items in Lagos, Nigeria, visited the Onion Section of Mile-12 market in Lagos State to get insights into the root cause of the irregular trend in price. 

Below are some of the reasons highlighted by Onion traders at the market; 

  • Increase in price of fertilizers 
  • Seasonal fluctuations 
  • Insecurity 
  • Strike actions resulting from the #EndSARS protests
  • General increment in the price of items amongst others 

What’s the trend like? 

A look into the historical trend in the price of a big bag of Onions, reveals a 325% increase in the price of dry onions from an average of N20,000 recorded earlier in January 2020 to N85,000 as of November 10, 2020. Also, a 261.1% increase in the price of new onions from N18,000 to N65,000.

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Note that between May and July, new onion was not sold in the various markets visited, it resurfaced in August 2020 – mainly due to seasonality of the commodity. 

What you should know  

Onion is one of the most commonly consumed vegetable crops in the world and widely eaten by Nigeria, as there is hardly a local Nigerian dish that does not require the use of onions in its preparation. 


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  • In Nigeria, onion is grown mostly in Northern states like Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Plateau, Bauchi, and Kebbi State. 
  • There are different varieties of onions, which include red, white, and yellow onion. The red is the most common one in Nigeria and it is of great commercial value to its farmers. 
  • As of October 2020, food inflation (16.66%) is at its highest since March 2018. 

What they are saying 

According to Shehu – a major Onion trader at the Mile-12 market, he said the sudden increase in the price of local fertilizers has affected the price of Onions and many other farm products. He said, “sometime last year, we do import the fertilizers that we use. However, we are now forced to use local fertilizers since the ban on importation, which has now increased the price significantly.” 

He stated further that 50kg bag of fertilizer was sold around N5,000 and N6,000 but jumped to an average of N19,000 in recent weeks. “Federal government fertilizer that is expected to remain cheap has also increased to N8,500 from an initial value of N5,000,” he said. 

Mr Bala, on the other hand, blamed the price increase on insecurity and lack of police officers on the road. According to him, farmers could not go to their farm lands anymore due to armed robbers and kidnappers terrorizing them in the North. Hence, they make use of farm lands closer to their homes.  

He also said that truck drivers are afraid to convey goods from the North down to the South, as armed robbers have been attacking and stealing from them on the road ever since the FG disbanded the Special Anti-robbery squad (SARS). He urged the FG to mobilize members of the NPF and the Nigerian Army to help curb the menace perpetrated by these robbers. 

Alhaji Muhammed, a trader at the market, blamed the increase in onion price on the aftermath of #EndSARS protest that was hijacked by hoodlums. During the looting and vandalization spree on Wednesday 21, 2020, several lorries carrying Onions from the North to Lagos State were allegedly burnt including the goods in them, he said. 

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According to him, the burning act has made the association of Onion sellers decide to reduce the number of lorries they bring in. He said, “Usually about 40 to 50 lorries of Onions come into the Mile-12 market daily, now we barely receive 2 to 3 lorries in a day. This scarcity has also contributed to the significant hike in price.”

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He, however, stated that the association is having a discussion with the FG and will resume when all has been settled. 

Finally, Mr. Usman highlighted other factors that has impeded the free flow of food items from the North into Lagos State. “Lack of security has discouraged our drivers from traveling due to kidnappers and armed robbers. Meanwhile, where and when there are Soldiers or member of the Nigerian police, they collect huge amount of money from the drivers before allowing them passage.”  

This payment at different stop on the road, end up affecting the price of the goods when it finally arrives into Lagos State. Another problem is the increase in the price of fuel, a necessity for the mechanized farmers and the drivers who convey the finished goods.”

Market reaction 

Nairametrics Research Analyst found the market filled with people negotiating prices at each store. However, a common reaction was dissatisfaction on the part of the customers concerning the price of onions. 

Mrs. Olaoluwa, while talking to a trader at Mile-12 market could be seen trying to convince him to sell a big bag of new onions for N50,000, which he declined. Speaking to Nairametrics Research, she said, “We are tired of the persistent increase in the price of food items in Lagos State, especially onion. We are now buying a bag of Onions for N60,000 while we sell about 9 pieces of Onions for N1,000. The government should come to our aid and help us, the hardship is too much,” she concluded bitterly.

Mrs Chibu, on the other hand, confirmed that the increase in the price of onions has discouraged many customers in her area from cooking with Onions. “Many customers in my area now cook without the use of onions, which is why I am not buying much, so that I won’t fall into loss,” she said. 

Bottom line 

The sustained increase in the price of onions will most likely affect Nigerians during the yuletide, as onions is a commonly used vegetable fruit in preparing most of the Nigerian and International delicacies during the period.

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