Estimates and Crop Assessment Division
Ethiopia grows a large varieties of crops which include cereals (teff, corn, wheat, barley, sorghum, millet, oats, etc.); pulses (horse beans, chick-peas, haricot beans, field peas, lentils, soybean, and vetch); oilseeds (linseed, nigerseed, fenugreek, noug, rapeseed, sunflower, castor bean, groundnuts, etc.), stimulants (coffee, tea, chat, tobacco, etc.) fibers(cotton, sisal, flax, etc.) fruits (banana, orange, grape, papaya, lemon, menderin, apple, pineapple, mango, avocado, etc.) vegetables (onion, tomato, carrot, cabbage, etc.), root and tuber (potato, enset, sweet-potatoes, beets, yams, etc.) and sugarcane.
It is estimated that 16.5 million hectares is under cultivation and grains are the most important field crop, occupying 86 percent of area planted and being the chief element in the diet of most Ethiopians. The principal grain crops are teff, wheat, barley, which are primarily cool-weather crops; and corn, sorghum, and millet which are warm weather grain crops. Teff is the most preferred crop grown in the cooler highlands, while sorghum is the principal lowland crop because it thrives well in semi-arid environments due to its hardy and drought resistant properties.
Cool Weather Cereal Crops: (Teff, Wheat, and Barley)
Teff, wheat, and barley are cool weather crops grown predominantly in the Ethiopian highlands at optimum altitude range of 1800 to 2200 meters. Teff occupies the largest area (1.4 million hectares) and has the largest total cereal production. Teff, indigenous to Ethiopia, forms the staple diet of many Ethiopians and it furnishes the flour to make injera, an unleavened bread that is consumed in the highlands and in urban centers throughout the country. Teff is, however, a very delicate and fragile crop that requires a lot of work and care, and it has one of the lowest yields of the cereal crops. Barley is another major subsistence crop, grown mostly between 2,000 and 3,500 meters, and also used in the production of tella, a locally produced beer.
Warm Weather Cereal Crops: (Corn, Sorghum, and Millet)
Common warm weather cereal crops in Ethiopia are corn, sorghum, and millet, where they are cultivated mostly at lower altitudes along the country's western, southwestern, and eastern peripheries. These three grains are the staple foods for a large part of the population and are major items in the diet for pastoralists. Sorghum and millet are drought resistant and grow well at low elevations where rainfall is less reliable. Sorghum is particularly important in northern Ethiopia, including in the highland areas of western Tigray. Corn is grown chiefly between elevations of l500 and 2200 meters and requires large amounts of rainfall to ensure good harvests. Corn is particularly important in southwest Ethiopia, with the Oromiya Region producing the largest amount of corn.
Pulse Production Areas
Pulses occupy 13 percent of the croplands, and they are the second most important element in the national diet, providing principal protein source and important dietary supplement to cereal consumption. Pulses are used primarily for making wot, an Ethiopian stew, which is sometimes served as a main dish. Though pluses are widely grown in the highlands, they are more common in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea. Pulses recently have regained significance as export commodities, as they were once an export commodity before the revolution but only served domestic consumption during most of the revolution years.
Coffee and chat are Ethiopia’s major cash crops, with coffee cultivation in direct competition with chat, the second major agricultural export. Chat is a mild stimulant harvested from a shrub (Catha edulis), the fresh leaves of which are chewed, and popular in the arid regions of Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia. Domestically, chat is a major source of revenue in the southeastern areas of Ethiopia, with the bulk of the crop being ferried daily by air and truck to Djibouti and Somaliland via Harar and Dire Dawa. For farmers it offers far quicker returns on investment than coffee, although much of the sale price accrues to the merchants and distributors.
Ethiopia produces one of the best highland coffees in the world. Its coffee is almost exclusively of the arabica type, which is native to Ethiopia and is the type of coffee produced in Latin America. In contrast, other parts of Africa grow robusta coffee, which typically bears both flowers and fruits simultaneously throughout most of the year, whereas arabica coffee has definite and short harvesting season. Coffee grows best at altitudes between l000 and 2000 meters and it grows wild in many parts of Ethiopia, although most Ethiopian coffee is produced in the southern and western regions of Kefa, Sidamo, Ilubabor, Gamo Gofa, Welega, and Harerge. Coffee area is estimated at about half million hectares, and about 98 percent of all coffee is produced by peasants on smallholdings of less than a hectare, and the remaining two percent is produced by commercial (state and private) farms. Rainfall distribution in tbe southern and eastern parts of the country is bimodal and the western part is monomodal. This distribution pattern enables the country to harvest coffee at different times of the year which makes the supply of fresh coffee possible all year round.