By Kojo Ahiakpa
As a prominent component of Ghanaian cuisines, onions are widely patronised and consumed throughout the country. They may also be used as supplements and in folk medicine.
Due to the perennial scarcity of domestic onion supply and the influx of imports from neighbouring countries, suitable and sustainable farming practices may be able to lessen reliance on these imports.
Furthermore, an analysis of the onion market in Ghana would pave the way for future investments in the commodity value chain. The Bawku red and Galmi onion varieties are the most commonly cultivated varieties in Ghana.
The Bawku Municipality, Bawku West and Binduri Districts in the Upper East Region are the primary growing locations for onions in the country (MoFA, 2020).
Onion production trends in Ghana
As of 2019, onion yields in Ghana were estimated to be approximately 19 metric tonnes per hectare (mt/ha) (MoFA, 2019). Meanwhile, other sources have estimated that the Bawku red cultivar will require between 10 and 20 mt/ha of land for production. Other cultivars produce 3.7 metric tonnes per hectare under rain-fed conditions and 12 metric tonnes per hectare under irrigation, with an average yield of 3.3 metric tonnes per hectare (MoFA, 2019).
The majority of onion farmers only cultivate a single crop every year, which is typically planted in January and harvested in April. Despite the fact that onion farming has been demonstrated to be lucrative outside of the primary growing season, farmers typically choose to grow other field crops during the rest of the year, resulting in onion supply shortages during the lean seasons.
Even during peak onion production in Ghana, local onion output falls far short of the demand in the country. As a result, traders rely on imported onions to keep up with demand (IFPRI, 2021). A well-textured sandy-loam soil, viable seeds, pest and disease management, recommended fertiliser application and irrigation are essential for onion farming in Ghana (ACDI-VOCA, 2018). A balance of these factors allows the farmer to successfully complete the entire production cycle, from land preparation to harvesting.
Market size of onion in Ghana
At the moment, the onion market in Ghana is expanding at an annual rate of 11 per cent (DFID, 2014). Based on this rather rapid market expansion, onion production appears to be sustainable in the long term, and it will continue to provide good value to the smallholder farmers and households who are involved in its production (DFID, 2014).
The bulb is widely utilised in Ghana in the preparation of stews and soups, accounting for one-fifth of vegetable expenditure by households (MoFA-IFPRI, 2020). Even though onions have a variety of applications in the medical, food, and manufacturing industries, they are only been utilised for food preparation in Ghana thus far. There is no well documented further utilisation of the vegetable in the country.
Ghana’s onion imports
Onions are primarily imported into Ghana from Niger, Burkina Faso, and Togo, with the remainder coming from other countries. According to official figures, onion imports are worth approximately $ 52.9 million per year (van Asselt et al. 2018).
However, based on historical evidence provided by the Ghana Agricultural Producers and Traders Organisation (GAPTO), it is estimated that onion imports from Burkina Faso and Togo alone might be worth more than $120 million per year (Gonzales et al. 2014; Citi News, 2017).
Between 2009 and 2018, United Nations Comtrade (2020) reported that onion imports increased from USD 7 million to USD 13 million. In 2020, the total value of onion imports was estimated to be $1.11 million.
. The writer is a consultant with Research Desk Consulting Limited, an agribusiness advisory, market research, data visualisation, and copyediting consulting firm.