Onion Industry’s Potential Untapped

Onion farm

June 15, 2018//-Onions are spices highly valued for their flavour, nutritional value and medicinal properties. Onions business falls in the category of farming ventures often neglected by many but which have great potentials for good business.

In fact, many erroneously think that farming of onions or their marketing is the exclusive preserve of the northerners.

Nevertheless, the truth is that anybody interested in the business can do it and from anywhere. It has the capacity to grow into a big business concern and create fabulous wealth for any investor.

The reason is simple. Onions are part of the most popular and important vegetables produced and eaten in Nigeria. In short, Nigeria is one of the world’s largest producers of onions with an annual production of over two million tons.

Onions are important spices that form part of essential ingredients of soups and other delicacies in the country whose consumption heightens at festivities. In those occasions, no meal is complete without its aroma and flavour. Besides the high nutritional value, they as well possess medicinal properties thus making it indispensable.

Health Benefits

Onions contain vital nutrients such as Vitamin C, B-6, protein; minerals and anti-oxidants such as sulfur and quercetin. They also contain iron, calcium, folate, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. Onions lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Experts have suggested that increased consumption of onions decreases the risk of diabetes, heart diseases and cancers. Folate in onions reduces the risk of depression. Onions maintain the healthy skin and hair, among others.

Varieties

There are over 21 different types of onions. We have short and long day onions with differential maturity periods. Some can be eaten raw, some better for soups, some for dishes and so on. We have red, white and yellow onions.

Yet in the red category, there is the Red Creole, with a medium-sized flattened bulb that is in high demand because it is good for keeping. There is also Red Tropicana, a hybrid, high yielding, large, red, thick-flat onion with firm pungent flesh and resistant to fungal diseases.

Then there is the Bombay Red that is good for dry and warmer conditions. It is small to medium-sized, globe-shaped, and purplish red and pungent. For the white onion, you have the White Creole whose bulbs are firm with small to medium size and good for dehydration.

However, the most consumed in the country is the red onion. Therefore, the demand for this species is very high such that production hardly meets the demand. One advantage of red onion is that it can be stored for up to four months at room temperature.

Cultivation

Onions thrive very well in a well-drained, fertile, loamy or sandy soil. Although onions can be grown anywhere in both rainy and dry seasons, the major producers in Nigeria are northern states of Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa, Plateau, Bauchi, Kebbi and the Federal Capital Territory Area.

Onions are usually planted in November or December and in April or May and mature in three or four months. However, the dry season farming of onions is most profitable. That implies that in dry season farming, the farmer must invest in irrigation.

That would involve ensuring a steady source of water. The source of water could be a stream, lake or dam. One can as well sink a borehole with an overhead tank for water storage. Of course, a generating set is necessary to pump water regularly for irrigation.

The seeds can be planted on ridges or raised flatbeds. Raised beds have the advantage of preventing waterlogging and ample spacing of about 15cm or 10 cm apart.

Avoid excessive irrigation. The seeds can be planted in nurseries before transplanting in the farm. This gives you the opportunity to have the desired spacing in between.

Ensure that weeding is done in the early stages of growth of the onions. This is because weeds adversely affect yields of onions, just like any other crop.

Bacterial and fungal diseases may attack the roots and the bulbs. Use appropriate herbicides to protect them from bacterial attacks such as soft rots, botrytis and rusts, or from pests such as maggots and nematodes.

Onions are mature for harvesting when their tops become yellow and begin to fall over. They can be harvested by pulling or by the aid of forks to lift them off the ground. Ensure that the bulbs are not damaged in the process of harvesting, which is better done in dry weather. The harvested onions can be stored in silos. With enough air in the silos, the onions could have a lifespan of about six months.

Marketing

According to the recent market survey of DAILY INDEPENDENT Business and Intelligence Unit, a 100kg bag of onions currently costs N14,000 in Wuse Market, Abuja, while in Maikarfi Market, Kaduna, it goes for between N10,500 and  N12,000. Down South at Ogbeogologo Market, Asaba, a 100kg bag of onions currently goes for between N35,000 and N38,000.

In Itam Market, Uyo, a 100kg bag of onions is between N18,000 and N19,000.  For Ose Market, Onitsha, the price of a 100kg bag of the commodity N28,000 to N30,000. In popular Mile 12 and Iddo markets in Lagos currently, it goes for between N12,000 and N15,000.

You can then see the difference in prices from the areas of massive production to areas where are heavily consumed. That shows a lot of money for anyone who decides to venture into trading in the commodity.

Processing

Fresh onions can be processed into onion powder, onion paste, dehydrated onion flakes, onion oil, onion wine or beverage, among others, for ready use. Processing also gives them a longer shelf life. Anyone with investible funds can venture into production of onion powder which is used as an essential ingredient of various food products.

It is commercially viable as it could be sold to manufacturing companies as an industrial raw material. Hotels, restaurants, caterers and domestic consumers constitute ready markets for onion powder. Onion powder has also good export market potential. With good investment in modern technology, onion powder can be produced to meet international standard.

Profitability

Onion is an essential commodity nationwide. That implies that there is a huge market for it, meaning also that there is a high return on investment.

Both in farming and in trading, it is a business you can start with a small capital and can be done anywhere, even in your backyard or in pots on cans. So, it is a win-win situation for both the farmer and trader in the business. Over to you, you will succeed!

 By Celestine Amoke, Independent.ng

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