Promoting Regional Competiveness
of Onion Production and
Marketing in ECOWAS
“A Sahelian Onion Productivity and Market Expansion Programme (SOPMEP) Initiative”
The global trading environment is becoming ever more competitive and for countries to access and compete in these markets, there is the need for the development of commodity value chains that are globally competitive. Regional integration remains one key strategy for African governments to “accelerate the transformation of their fragmented small economies, expand their markets, widen the region’s economic space, and reap the benefits of economies of scale for production and trade, thereby maximizing the welfare of their nations” (UNECA, 2010).
As a dry season crop and one best suited to cultivation in the Sahelian regions of West Africa, Onion production has become an economic crop in the region with an average annual production of an estimated 1.1 million MT. Niger is the largest producer in West Africa producing about 440,000 MT followed by Nigeria with about 220,000 MT (but with high postharvest loss of 40%) and Senegal with 65,000 MT annually with Burkina Faso and Ghana increasingly becoming important producers. Niger and Burkina exports over 83,000MT of Onion to Ghana annually valued at over $60 million. Niger also exports to Nigeria and Libya with Burkina also exporting to Cote D’Ivoire.
‘Production of onions creates employment for over 20,000 value chain actors in West Africa through labour in the lean season and therefore acts as a source of income. Farmers are able to generate an average annual income of $600-$1,000 in addition to that released from the main staples’
The regional onion value chain is however characterized by high seasonality and major structural and organizational inefficiencies that hamper the ability of producers in West Africa to fully satisfy sub-regional market demand throughout the year. This has enabled other more efficient, higher value producing countries from the EU and Asia to exploit what is a growing competitiveness gap by targeting West Africa’s markets, particularly during the off season months when the region imports over 288,000 MT (valued at over $200 million) from the EU to supplement the regional deficit.
It is against this backdrop that UNDP/AFIM provided catalytic funding to support a “Sahelian Onion Productivity and Market Expansion Programme (SOPMEP) (cross border initiative) in West Africa facilitated by ASNAPP1 with Burkina and Ghana benefiting in year one of the project. ASNAPP is collaborating with TRIAS (Ghana), Federation des Professionnels Agricoles du Burkina, FEPA-B and Confederation Paysanne du Faso, CPF (Burkina Faso), NorthFin Foundation (Ghana), Ministries of Agriculture in Ghana and Burkina Faso, and Progressive Onion Traders and Producers Association (Ghana) to develop the onion value chain in West Africa. The project seeks to address social inclusiveness and integrate opportunities of actors within the value chain such as smallholder farmers, agents/dealers, support service providers, development agencies, the private sector and the government. Designed interventions are particularly focussed on allowing smallholder farmers’ participation in the offseason markets through improved production methods and investment in family-level storage. Low-income farmers are to benefit due to increased income by participating in the offseason market thereby addressing UNDP/AFIM goal of poverty reduction.
Notable achievements realized since project inception in November 2012 to date, include:
- 6,000 Posters of Good Agricultural and Post- Harvest Practices (3,000 each in English and French) printed and distributed.
- 300 Posters on Storage and Selling Scenarios Printed (150 English and 150 French)
- 50 manuals printed for Training of Trainers (ToTs) to serve as guides
- 2,642 producers capacities built on Good Agricultural Practices on Onion Production with over 38% being females. Over 60% of the beneficiaries also were in their active youth age of between 21 and 35 years.
- 3,040 Producers trained on improved storage technology
- 34 family-level storage structures valued at $200 each constructed in Ghana for communities that previously stored only in their rooms.
- 46 medium and large family size storage structures (made from local materials; mud and sticks) valued at $140 -$260 constructed in Batondo district for four Onion Unions in Burkina Faso. These structures were easily adoptable as it was cheaper compared to existing Steel Structures costing $1,400.
- The adoption of planting in rows technology (GAP) also led to remarkable increase in onion bulb sizes from 50g to 100g and yield increased by 70%
- Selected beneficiaries of the storage structure who sold in June recorded 400% increase in Price up from $25/bag in March to $100/bag presently. With the current results and the high interest expressed by farmers to invest in these structures in the coming season, at least 10,000 producers both in Ghana and Burkina stand to gain additional $7.5M by storing onions for just 3-6 months in the simplified family level structures developed.
- Finally, the project also fostered partnerships with implementing partners who have institutionalised onion value chain capacity development into their programme of activities and intend to expand to other areas of operations; thus helping realise the catalytic objective of the project.
In spite of the above achievements and given the widespread nature of the onion production sector, there still remains a good number of onion producing communities that were not covered during the Pilot phase. Also findings from the Onion Value chain study and feedback from producer associations across the sub-region (Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria) during the UNDP/AFIM week in Senegal revealed specific country gaps that need to be addressed to make the sector more competitive. The sub-region also has some crosscutting issues that need attention to become globally competitive in onion production and marketing. Subsequently, a regional workshop is being planned to create a platform for exchange of ideas on addressing these challenges and also to share key lessons learnt and outcomes of the pilot project for replication.
Amongst the objectives of the workshop is to explore the idea of a regional onion knowledge sharing platform/exchange. The proposed platform/exchange would link national producers to off-takers which ultimately will lead to immense benefits for the sub region through economies of scale as countries reduce transaction costs associated with uncoordinated individual markets. It will also help promote the benefit of storage and staggering of sales by producers to take advantage of high off season prices. Developing a regional onion exchange/knowledge sharing platform, while noble, is fraught with a lot of challenges, as is common when dealing with issues that require cross border linkages. The sub-objectives below are therefore to explore how to move forward with a regional onion knowledge sharing platform/exchange:
· Identify gaps and constraints that hampers the ability of producers in West Africa to fully satisfy sub-regional market demand throughout the year.
· Investigate ways of forging links among Trade and Producer Unions in the Sub-region to better integrate their activities to become more competitive.
· Develop regional strategies to take advantage of the high prices in off seasons and satisfy the sub-regional market demand throughout the year.
· Share findings and draw lessons from the SOPMEP catalytic project on the rate of adoption, benefits of adopting Good Agricultural and Postharvest Practices, the challenges and way forward with stakeholders in the sector.
· Increase access of these stakeholders to information on country programmes and initiatives, aiming to contribute to sustainable development.
· The Roadmap for the establishment of a Regional Knowledge sharing platform/exchange developed
· Increased market access between producers and off-takers
· Lessons learnt from SOPMEP incorporated in development agenda of development organizations and producer associations in the region
· Identification and definition of follow up activities based on the recommendations of participants
This workshop will be organised by ASNAPP in close collaboration with UNDP/AFIM Regional Office and relevant UNDP Country Offices in West Africa. Country representatives from trade and producer associations as well as buyers will be present at the workshop. Participating Countries are Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria.
Regional experts and other stakeholders will also be invited to share their views on successful business models that have the potential to make onions from West Africa more competitive against that from Europe and Asia. Government representatives will also be invited to appreciate the economic potential of the sector and the associated issues that require redress. The Private sector, including off-takers, traders and producer representatives will also be invited as key stakeholders.
A total of 35 participants are expected to be part of this workshop.
Venue : Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Ouagadougou was selected due to its central location in West Africa and also serves as the transit point for onions from Niger to Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire.
This is a two-day workshop. Day 1 will focus on presenting findings from the implementation of SOPMEP, discussing on crosscutting challenges with onions in West Africa and exploring possible areas of collaboration to make onions in West Africa more competitive. Day 2 will be a half day, fine tuning the outcome of the deliberations to come up with a workable document for implementation to help source funding.
Breakout sessions will be organized and interactive discussions will be encouraged throughout the two day workshop. Recommendations stemming from the discussions will be shared, and a plan on how to integrate the proposed changes will be presented.