Ethiopia Imports Wheat for $300-400 Million


Mar 17, 2023 | Agricultural Markets News

Reading time: 2 minutes

Ethiopia is the third largest Wheat-producing country in Africa, next to Egypt and Morocco. About 1.8 million hectares (ha) of land areas are covered by Wheat production, with an estimated annual production of 50 million quintals at average productivity of 28 quintals/ ha, which has been improving constantly over the past 25 years but remains lower than the world average of 33 quintals/ha.

According to sources, around 80-85 percent of Ethiopians are engaged in agriculture, mainly in subsistence and rain-fed farming and livestock breeding. Also, about 35 percent of the population does not have access to enough nutritious food. As part of its overall commitment to boost agricultural output, the Government of Ethiopia has embarked on creating irrigation-based Wheat production. 

Over the last few years, promising results have been registered in increasing irrigation-based Wheat production. In 2020, about 600,000 quintals of Wheat were harvested from the 20,000 ha of irrigated Wheat land. Currently, 5-6 million quintals of Wheat are expected from the 144,300 hectares of land cultivated in Afar, Somali, Oromia, Amhara, and SNNP regional states. Ethiopia can cultivate an additional 3.5 million ha of irrigable land in the Awash, Shebele, and Omo basins. Irrigation-based Wheat cultivation piloted in the lowland areas of the country is now being replicated and expanded to the highland areas. 

According to AgFlow data, Ethiopia imported 0.5 million tons of Wheat from the United States in 2022, followed by Ukraine (0.14 million tons) and Argentina (0.1 million tons).  As a temporary fix, the demand gap is being bridged by importing an average of 10-15 million quintals of Wheat per annum, costing around 300-400 million USD, and putting additional pressure on the already meager foreign currency reserve of the country.

Therefore, to minimize the imbalance between supply and demand for Wheat, the Government is heavily expanding irrigated Wheat cultivation throughout the country, enabling it to yield more harvest than rain-fed cultivation. It is anticipated that if the average productivity of Wheat is increased from 28 quintals/ha to 50 quintals/ha on the 1.8 million ha of land currently being cultivated, Wheat self-sufficiency can be achieved soon.

Ethiopia Imports Wheat for $300-400 Million

Ethiopian Cluster Farming for Wheat

On top of the focus on irrigated agriculture, Ethiopia is rolling out a cluster farming system at a large scale. The cluster farming system targets smallholder farmers known to practice labor-intensive, fragmented, and subsistence farming. Apart from helping small-scale farmers to increase productivity through an adequate supply of modern agricultural inputs, the cluster farming system has been facilitating the farmers to get market access by improving the quality and quantity of their production for local consumption and export trade.

The Government’s effort to scale up cluster farming is also supported by development partners with programs like Agricultural Commercialization Clusters (ACC). The ACC is a five-year program implemented in Amhara, Oromia, SNNP, and Tigray regions, prioritizing ten commodities in 31 clusters across the four major regions. The ACC, to a large part, is being funded by the European Union and its member states (Denmark and Netherlands) and targets to double the income of 5 million smallholder farmers during the five years (2019/20 to 2023/24).

The cluster farming system, when coupled with mechanized production, not only helps modernize and increase the productivity of the agriculture sector but also enables intensified market-oriented production practices. Hence, the agriculture sector aspires not only to bring food self-sufficiency to the nation but also to penetrate the international market by leveraging the country’s full potential to become a significant exporter of agricultural products, including Wheat.

Other sources: ALL AFRICA

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