Onion farmers want market

The National,Wednesday June 15th, 2016

BULB onion farmers in Chimbu are calling on the Government to set up markets for them to sell their produce, Individual Reform and Restoration Movement (IRRM) Inc. programme coordinator Toppy Sundu says.
The IRRM is a community-based organisation at Womkama village in Gembogl district, Chimbu.
The organisation was formed in 2005 to improve the living conditions of the Womkama community using locally available natural resources like land for agriculture activities.
Sundu said the recent ban on importing of bulb onions from August 2015 to January this year had encouraged local farmers to triple their production.
However, he said with the lifting of the ban, in the past five months locals either sold their onions cheaply to middle buyers or left them to rot because they could not find suitable buyers.
“I call upon the Government to reinforce the ban again to address farmers’ market needs because the Government cannot address financial needs of every individual,” Sundu said.
Problems currently associated with bulb onion production are:

  • High transportation cost from farm gate to the roadside informal market in Kundiawa town;
  • farmers having a hard time selling their onions in Kundiawa town. It takes them three to four days to stay in town to sell their produce where they have no proper place to sleep and stock up their onions to resell the next day; and,
  • the middle informal buyers step in at the right time, usually in the afternoon, when farmers have no place to sleep and stock their produce. The onions were either taken by middle buyers on credit at prices as low as K40 per 35kg bag, that is K1.10/kg) and  later sold at K80 per bag (K2.30/Kg).

“Those onions taken on credit basis are either paid after more than one month or never paid,” Sundu said.
“Simbu Farmers Marketing Limited (SFML) and others also take more than a month to pay farmers which greatly affects their business operations.
“It is risky and expensive for farmers to transport onions out from Kundiawa to other centres like Goroka and Lae in search for better markets.
“It costs farmers more than K500 to transport onions to Goroka and Lae.
“Having experienced these problems, IRRM being the major onion producer in Gembogl, intervened in 2015 to address the issue.
“IRRM set a market depot at Womkama village and started buying bulb onions from its farmers at K70 per 35kg bag at farm gate.
“IRRM trialed that by using K53,000 to buy bulb onions from its farmers at farm gate to address market problems faced by farmers in terms of transport and markets.
“Unfortunately, while farmers proudly walked away with cash, IRRM could not sell out the onions that it bought from its farmers as there was no market for IRRM to resell,
“As a result IRRM lost 16 tonnes of onions worth K33,000 which  were left to rot at its storage shed.”