Onions feature in a wide variety of meals consumed in Nigeria. They are present in stews and soups, grilled meat preparations, and even in snacks. Without them, much of our culinary delights would lack their characteristic taste.
Nigeria produces a lot of this vegetable. Each year, about 1.4 million tonnes of the bulb-base crop makes its way from farms across Nigeria to the markets, where they are purchased by millions of people. That quantity crowns Nigeria the second-biggest producer of onions in Africa, behind Egypt.
Although onions are consumed everywhere in Nigeria, its top growers are in the north. Sokoto leads the way, with over 169,000 tonnes coming out of that state. Adamawa, Kebbi, Jigawa, Plateau, and Bauchi are also significant producers.
There’s a great deal of opportunity for players in the onion value chain. Both the local and foreign markets are growing steadily. With a population expanding at the rate of over 2% annually, Nigeria has enough upcoming demand to attract new entrants into the market. The global market was worth $950 million in 2017 and could reach $1.5 billion by 2028.
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This market has remained quite enthusiastic about onions. That’s partly because of the spicy taste and aesthetic elegance it brings to meals. But there’s also a growing recognition of its health benefits as well. It’s known to benefit gut and heart health. It also possesses cancer-fighting properties and helps to control blood sugar.
The onion crop is relatively easy to cultivate. When properly taken care of, yields of the crop could top 25 tonnes per hectare. The Onion Producers Association in Nigeria has said that the country could make $240 million from onion exports per year.
However, Nigeria only reaps a fraction of this amount. It’s still largely dependent on onion imports, bringing in about 1.1 million tonnes of the produce from beyond its borders to fill the local supply gap. It also losses up to half of its onion harvests due to poor preservation practices.
All of these indicate that there’s an opportunity for more Nigerians in onion production and the broader onion value chain. The unmet demand is worth billions of naira; this value will be captured by businesses that can plug the existing domestic supply gap.