Tomato and onion prices rise as rainy season deepens
By Vincent A. Yusuf (Abuja), Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano) & Dickson S. Adama (Jos)
AAs the rainy season intensifies, tomato and onion prices in all states have started to rise.
Tomato and onion production in the country is mostly rain-fed, with most of the smallholder farmers who dominate the space lacking the technology for large-scale production during the rainy season.
The country’s annual production is about 1.8 million metric tons, which is less than the 2.4 million metric tons of domestic demand per year.
The gap is filled by huge imports of pasta from China, Italy and other countries, amounting to N13 billion a year, according to figures from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
There are very few medium-sized commercial farmers using greenhouse technology to produce, and some private companies have also set up tomato processing plants, but they have yet to make a real impact.
During the rainy season, small farmers do not have control over the rain, unlike in the dry season under irrigation where they are able to control the amount of water withdrawn from their tomato farms.
Rainfall has a devastating effect on tomato farms, leading to low production, which drives up prices.
Beginning in April, farmers in many growing states begin experiencing tomato damage on their farms. This leads to its acute scarcity within three or four months when consumers resort to the use of sun-dried tomatoes and tomato pastes.
In Abuja and the neighboring states of Nasarawa and Niger, onion and tomato prices have increased by more than 50%, with a large basket of tomatoes, which sold for between 8,000 and 9,000 naira at the start of the last month, rising to 19 naira. 000 for UTC varieties which mainly come from Jos.
Onions have also seen a price hike as a bag sells above 20,000 naira.
Some of the dealers in Abuja attributed the price hike to two things: a drop in production and the cost of transport, which in recent months has been high.
In Kano State, our correspondent reports that the price of tomatoes has skyrocketed in recent weeks, along with that of onions.
A visit to the Yan Kaba vegetable market showed that a basket of tomatoes sold for 9,000-10,000 naira a few weeks ago is now 15,500-17,500 naira.
Similarly, a large bag of onions that sold for N18,000-20,000 is now N30,000-35,000 while the smaller bag that sold for N7,000-8,000 is now from 12,000 to 12,500 N.
However, the Kano State Chairman of the Tomato Growers Association of Nigeria (TOGAN), Alhaji Sani Danladi Yadakwari, attributed the tomato price hike to the unexpected rainfall recorded a few weeks ago.
According to him, the rain washed away large tomato plantations in Katsina, Kaduna and parts of Zaria.
He has already said that the tomato peak season is over in Kano.
Yadakwari added that the commodity would continue to be scarce and expensive until the tomato harvest before the rainy season.
He urged authorities to provide emergency aid to affected farmers to enable them to return to their farms to start production to stem the shortage.
Similarly, an onion trader at the Gun Dutse onion market said that the rise in the price of onions is due to the fact that the harvest period is over and the onions currently on the market are those that were stored by the merchants.
According to him, onion growers are currently preparing their farms for the rainy season and it is the traders who are currently controlling the market and as such, a rise in prices is inevitable.
A check from our correspondent in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, revealed that onion and tomato prices have risen for the past few weeks in the state.
A vegetable vendor at Tomato Market near the Cele Bridge in Jos, Rachael Stephen, confirmed the price hike to our correspondent.
She said a large sack/bag of onions now sells for 15,000-18,000 Naira unlike two months ago when it was sold for 10,000-12,000 Naira.
She said that a small paint rubber is now sold between 700 and 800 Naira, adding that when a basket was sold between 10,000 and 12,000 Naira, the small paint rubber was sold between 400 and 600 Naira.
Regarding the price of tomatoes, she said the average basket is now sold between 5,500 and 7,000 Naira, unlike the last two weeks when it was sold between 1,500 and 2,300 Naira.
Mrs. Stephen noted that the rise in the price of onions was gradual until it reached the current state.