• The delay by government to give import permits is the cause because there is nothing on the market.
• The shortage has resulted in high prices as a K10 bag is now selling between K300 and K400 from K100.
• Farmers have the capacity to produce more but they do not have storage facilities.
Fruit and Vegetable Traders Association of Zambia has attributed the shortage of Onion on the market to delays by government to issue permits for importation of the commodity.
Speaking in an interview with Money FM News, Association President Bernard Sikunyongana said right now the country has completely run out of Onion as all the stocks finished in January.
Mr. Sikunyongana bemoaned the delay to issue importation permits which he says starts in February every year.
“Right now the country has run out of Onion, locally whatever we had finished, and the government has delayed to release the permit for us to start importing because every year we start in February but now we are in March. So the delay by government to give us permits so that we start the importation is the cause because there is nothing on the market,” Mr. Sikunyongana said.
He noted that farmers cannot produce adequate Onion to meet local demand because they do not have storage facilities to keep the product, hence the need to import.
Mr. Sikunyongana wondered why government banned the importation of Onion few weeks ago on the pretext that farmers are able to supply to the market when in fact not.
“And you know our farmers do not have storage facilities to keep the onion for a long time and that is the reason why they can’t produce abundant quantities to cover all these other months. Most small scale farmers just keep a tonne and they are forced to sale because they do not have storage facilities that can store more quantities,” he noted.
“The government is saying there are farmers with onion, can we know those farmers so that as traders we can go and buy that onion and flood it on the market. The truth of the matter is that we do not have the onion right now, as a country we ran out of onion in January, so that is why the prices have gone up more than three times.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Sikunyongana observed that the shortage of Onion has resulted in traders hiking prices of the commodity as a K10 bag is now selling between K300 and K400 instead of K100.
He called on government to support local farmers with storage facilities because they have the capacity to produce on a large scale.
“A 10Kg is above K300 to K400 and the normal price is supposed to be K80 to K100 but now it has gone to K400. If farmers can be supported, I can assure you they have the capacity to produce this onion but they have no storage facilities where they can dry it, they have no driers. So these are the things that government can work on.”
“What measures is government putting in place so that the country can start producing enough for its people?” Mr. Sikunyongana questioned.
And efforts to get a comment from both Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo and his Permanent Secretary Songowayo Zyambo failed as their mobile phones went unanswered.