In a satellite town of Senegal’s capital Dakar, 25-kilo sacks of onions are piled up on pavements, ignored by passers-by.
The West African country is in the middle of a supply glut, with prices plummeting and heaps of the pungent vegetables left to rot by the roadside. Farmers are in despair.
“I’m going to give some to the local women,” says farmer Diongue Masseye, 71, gazing despondently at his onions.
He is standing inside a 450 square metre (5,000 square foot) warehouse in Bambilor, an onion-producing town about 30 kilometres (20 miles) northeast of the capital Dakar, where his unsold produce has started to sprout.
Gloomy farmers — who produce about 450,000 tonnes of onions a year — blame the problem on increased foreign competition and a lack of storage capacity.
But the government also argues that farmers have overproduced this year, flooding the market with onions and depressing prices.
Masseye said prices had nearly halved. A 25-kilo sack of onions fetched the equivalent of about 13 euros ($15) a few months ago, he said, but are now worth about seven euros ($8).
The bulbous vegetable is a lifeline to many in the nation of 16 million people, where it is a key ingredient in the national fish-and-rice dish, Thieboudienne, as well as Yassa chicken.
Amadou Abdoul Sy, the director of Senegal’s market regulation agency, said some 200,000 farmers are employed in the onion sector.
“Everyone is producing at the same time,” he told AFP, explaining the glut.