It’s perfectly normal that spaghetti and macaroni, with meat or tomato sauce, are offered to you by the waiter at any restaurant in Ethiopia. Indeed, pasta has a long history in this beautiful African country. It was introduced by Italians at the beginning of the last century. Being highly appreciated by Ethiopian people, a series of pasta-making industries have been established over time to satisfy the growing demand.
At present, there are about 20 different companies producing pasta. Among them, Kaliti Foods Share Company and Dire Dawa Food Complex (Ddfc) are the bigger ones, both availing themselves of Italian technologies and equipments. The first company, located in Addis Ababa, has a productive capacity of 24 tons per hour, both for short and long pasta. Ddfc is located in Dire Dawa town, next to the border with Djibouti. Its capacity is about 40 and 33 tons per hour, for short and long pasta respectively. Future trends are extremely promising for pasta, considering that the population is huge (over 90 millions) and the presence of pasta on the table of families is considerably increas ing. It is gradually replacing the traditional dish, injera. A yearly consumption of 5 kg per capita can be foreseen, especially in the growing urban areas where citizens are adopting new lifestyles, for which pasta is perfect, because it is fast, easy, cheap and enjoyable, thanks to the creative and multiple ways of cooking it offers.
In the last decade, a major limiting factor for local pasta-makers has been the low supply of durum wheat in the country. Few production with inadequate quality. Therefore pasta makers had to buy huge and homogeneous amounts from abroad. This situation may seem quite paradoxical, because wheat is a very traditional crop in Ethiopia, with a sowing of over 1.6 million of hectares. The point is that the 3.5 million tons produced annually are nearly exclusively made of soft wheat, and not durum. Moreover, this production is provided by millions of small farmers through a complex net of intermediaries that aggregate the produce by volumes, and not by quality. As a consequence, industries have been forced to rely on import for durum wheat and therefore they have been affected by the huge import costs and by the recurrent scarcity of hard currency in the Ethiopian bank system. But the internal demand of pasta is not yet fulfilled, so a huge importation of pasta is taking place.
The “Agricultural value chain project in Oromia”
A joint Ethio-Italian cooperation initiative, the “Agricultural value chains project in Oromia (Avcpo)”, with funding from the Italian Development Cooperation and with the technical assistance of the Istituto Agronomico per l’Oltremare (Iao – Overseas Agronomic Institute), is astonishingly changing the scene. In the pilot zone of Bale (where about 140,000 hectares are yearly sown with soft wheat), the project successfully enabled 15 cooperatives and their second level associations (i.e. Unions) to roduce durum, ensuring the quality and quantity required by local industries. An innovative contract (recognizing significant price increases according to verified quality parameters, in particular protein content) provides a winwin business environment for both farmers and industries. Consequently farmers are expanding their cultivation and applying the best improvements in farming practices. Right now, an exponential increment of high quality durum production can be seen: 500 tons in 2012; 2,000 in 2013; 5,000 in 2014 and at beginning of 2015, about 15,000 tons will be harvested (it means 30 times more in a four year period). Similar durum wheat projects could be easily launched in other areas of Ethiopia, adapted to its good performance, as it is already happening in two neighboring zones.