Ethiopia to continue relying on wheat imports as demand overshadows local production

ETHIOPIA – Wheat production in Ethiopia in 2022/23 is projected at 5.7 million tons, up by 3.26 percent over the 2021/22 production estimate.

According to a GAIN report by USDA, the country’s production of the grain in 2021/22 is estimated to be 5.52 million tons.

The rise in production is attributed to the government’s intervention aimed to boost growth of the sector including dedicating more resources to production such as intensive extension support, irrigation development, input supply, and using partly mechanized farming systems.

This is in line with its Wheat Sector Development Strategy that has also given high priority for the release of improved high yielding and disease-resistant wheat varieties through building the capacity of the wheat breeding program in the productive areas of the country.

With the rise in production, Ethiopia’s demand of the crop in MY 2022/23 is expected to reach to 7.38 million MT, a near 2.9 percent increase over 2021/22.

A range of factors contributing to wheat consumption growth in the country includes population growth, food aid requirements, expansion of agro-processors, urbanization, the increase of the internal displaced population, and increasing household income.

In Ethiopia the grain is a major staple crop and is consumed heavily in different forms which can be prepared in an industrial processed way or via cultural processing techniques.

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According to the report, there are more than 600 small and large flour mills in the country, with a total production capacity of between 4 to 4.5 million tons of wheat flour per year. However, the mills work below 50 percent of their capacity due to wheat shortages.

To meet high local demand, Ethiopia is expected to import 4 million tons of wheat during the period under review.

Russia’s war in Ukraine may affect wheat supplies in the country as it depends on those two nations for commercial wheat purchases due to their low prices and transportation costs compared to other countries including the United States.

However, there are signs that the wheat sector in Ethiopia is undergoing a significant transformation to ensure supply, such as adoption of the Wheat Sector Development Strategy.

Also, the country removed tariff tax and other taxes on imported food grains and flour through a directive issued in September 2021. This helped to increase the legal wheat product and flour imports into the country.

Ethiopia is planning to stop importing wheat in 2023, however, it is a very unrealistic and unachievable target within such a short period of time and with limited resources to adopt necessary technologies.

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