September 3 in a satellite town of Dakar, Senegal 25 kilo sacks of onions are pilled up on pavements ignored by passers by.
The West African power house is currently in the middle of a supply glut.
With prices plummeting and heaps of the pungent vegetables left to rot by the roadside. Farmers are in dispair.
“I am going to give some to the local women,” says Diongue Masseye, an onion farmer.
You can notice his stern gaze as he tries to think of ways to avoid the huge losses.
Several farmers just like Diongue Masseye have their heads bowed as if to ask for the earth to offer them a miracle. The farmers produce over 450,000 tonnes of onions per year.
Causes of glut
One of the leading causes of the glut is increased competition from onion imports. Another would be luck of storage facilities for the harvested onions.
The ministry of agriculture says farmes have over produced flooding the market leading to poor prices.
Prices have nearly halved. A 25 kilo sack of onions fetched the equivalent of about 13 euros or $15 a few months ago but now goes for 7 euros or $8.
Onion is a major part of the meals in Senegal a country of about 16 million people. It is used on common foods such as the national dish like fish and rice, Thieboudienne as well as Yassa chicken.
Amadou Abdul Sly, the director of Senegal’s market regulation agency, said some 200,000 farmes are employed in the onion sector.
“Everyone is producing at the same time,” he told AFP while explaining the glut.
Onion farming is plagued by problems almost a third of the annual harvest is lost. According to FAO one of the leading causes of this is as a result of poor quality seeds used during production.
Consumers are shying away from the damaged goods. Several people will buy imported onions and avoid the locally produced onions.
In a bid to stop this and support the local farmers the government suspended onion imports in January. Though it is a good initiative the foreign companies have larger farms and better storage facilities compared to the local farmers.
Onion farmers are calling for legislation that will protect small producers who will fall “prey to unfair competition” from larger ones.
Lack of storage facilities is a chronic problem according to farmers, where a warm climate means vegetables quickly get bad.