Auction of onions to protect farmers from exploitation

Summary

  • Farmers have also called for strict control over buyers as well as finalising the establishment of a cooperative union

Karatu. Authorities in Karatu District, Arusha Region, are finalising the introduction of onion auctions in their efforts to protect farmers from exploitation.

The idea has been well received by onion farmers carrying out their activities along the Eyasi Basin.

However, they called for strict control over buyers as well as finalizing the establishment of a cooperative union in the area.

The introduction of the onion auction plan was recently revealed by Karatu District Executive Director (DED) Karia Magaro to a team of officials from the Tanzania Fertilizer Regulatory Authority (TFRA).

The team arrived at the district for the purpose of gathering success stories behind the provision of subsidized fertilizers to farmers in the 2022/23 agriculture season.

Speaking to the team, Mr Magaro said onions contributed Sh1.5 billion in revenue in the 2021/22 fiscal year, while coffee racked in Sh250 million.

“Generally, agricultural crops attracted Sh2.4 billion of the total Sh5 billion council budget. Hopefully, more revenue will be generated this financial year due to the increased involvement of people in crop cultivation following the government’s provision of subsidized fertilizers,” he said.

Mr Magaro said traders from neighbouring Kenya were the crop’s potential buyers.

Furthermore, he said the idea to introduce onion auctions has been communicated to the ministry of agriculture, noting that the plan has been accepted by the government.

“We have secured land for the construction of warehouses that will store harvested onions. Buyers will be required to buy onions through the auction as nobody will be allowed to proceed to onion farms,” he said.

“The introduction of onion one-stop trading centres aims at relieving farmers of the challenge of getting unreasonably low prices for their produce,” he added.

He said the auction will facilitate successful meetings between farmers and buyers for the broad benefit of farmers. Mr Magaro said onions will be traded through auctions like coffee, cashews, tea, and several other agricultural crops. An onion farmer, Mr Moses Slaa, supported the idea, however, suggesting that buyers be restricted from procuring onions directly from the farms.

“The situation is currently alarming because some buyers have reached the level of leasing land and engaging in onion farming inside our country, which is a contravention of the law,” he said.

He suggested that warehouses should be built close to onion production centres in order to reduce transportation challenges that could reduce the volume and quality of the produce.

“Catalogs should be prepared, providing all the necessary information about onions preserved in a certain warehouse. The information that includes the volume, variety, moisture content, harvest date, etc. will enable buyers to make proper decisions during auctions,” he said.

However, agricultural officer at the Baray Ward, Mr Johnson Eshengoma, said the onion auction was a liberation for onion farmers, who would be assured of a reliable market.

“Auctions will provide farmers with better prices, but this idea has been coupled with the formation of a cooperative union gathering farmers carrying their activities along the Eyasi Basin,” he said.

“We are now finalizing the formation of the cooperative union. Hopefully, it will do away with agents who have been exploiting farmers,” he added.

He said through a cooperative union, farmers will agree on issues of common understanding such as the price of crops, suitable packaging materials, and conducive systems of selling the crops.

“The systems may include whether to use weighing scales or not as well as establishing a common packaging material that will be used by all cooperative members,” he said.

For his part, Mr Mustapha Mbwambo said the success of the onion auction plan would depend on the government’s success in restricting buyers from buying the products directly from the farms.

When buyers are allowed to buy crops directly from the farms, small scale farmers are the ones adversely affected due to the damage to their products and lack of customers.