Ethiopia’s Rich Resources in the Horticulture Industry

It is useful to scrutinize, analyze, and examine the input/output linkages to identify the real constraints and opportunities in horticulture production and marketing in Ethiopia. The analysis begins with identification of input supplies and demand for horticulture output. This calls for assessing the marketing channels, organizations, linkages and lines of movements of horticultural products and production inputs. The assessment of these linkages reveals the major constraints and opportunities of production and marketing of horticulture. To analyze Ethiopian horticulture, one begins with the most common types of vegetables that are grown in the country with different intensities in terms of land and other input allocations. The most commonly grown vegetables are potato, cabbage, onion, carrot and beetroots and fruits.

The production of horticulture is concentrated in the lowland areas. Most of the growers have few plants often grown for consumption although a limited amount is also sold. Vegetables provide the most intensive production system where some farmers produce them in three cycles within the same year, using irrigation water. Hence, most of the vegetable producers rely on irrigation mainly to harvest their products during the dry season when the price is high. Fertilizer and animal manure is used intensively. Where growers are not organized, the land size is small. Most of the vegetable producers used local varieties. Improved varieties needed to produce the desired product are not available in sufficient quantities. Pesticides are used by some of the growers, who acquired them from known sources while a few of them purchased them from unknown sources.

There are reports of “adulteration” of inputs affecting germination qualities of seeds and efficacy of pesticides. Input supply system includes improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides that are supplied through different channels. Seeds and pesticides are either collected from local producers or imported for further distribution. Fertilizers are imported. The role of farmers’ unions in importing and distributing inputs is low, but growing. The government facilitates input supply through these unions to member cooperatives and then to farmers. The Ethiopian Agricultural Inputs Supply Enterprise (AISE) is a major public institution involved in importing, collecting and distributing inputs through its branch offices. Traders also play a crucial role in supplying inputs.

The major horticulture production constraints include inappropriate seed variety, pests, drought, shortage of fertilizer, and price of fuel for pumping water for irrigation. The opportunities for increasing horticulture production include the increase in market integration, water harvesting, intensive production in response to increasing demand, farmers’ awareness of the benefits of horticulture, supportive government policy, outreach program, etc. Vegetables and fruits are produced in some specific locations and are supplied to the local markets and to the neighboring countries. The markets for collection and distribution of large volumes of vegetables are well known. The market actors are producers, collectors, brokers, transporters, traders, consumers, and exporters with different roles in the market chain.

Potatoes and onions are the most commonly marketed vegetables accounting for more than half of the marketed products. The other produces such as cabbage, beetroots and carrot, garlic, green pepper, lettuce and tomato are marketed at relatively smaller quantities by few farmers. The leafy vegetables are often supplied from eastern Ethiopia to Djibouti, while relatively less perishable and highly demanded vegetables such as potatoes and onions, are also supplied depending on the seasonal supply deficit. The production is seasonal and prices are inversely related to supply. During the peak supply period, the prices decline. In Ethiopia, the situation is worsened by the perishability of the products.

Because of poor storage facilities, about one quarter of the vegetables are “spoiled” before they reach the market. This reduces the bargaining power of farmers, who could not sell it in other alternative market outlets. The most common marketing channels immediately available to the farmer are brokers. There are about three brokers between the producer and the trader. Each of the brokers makes a certain margin per quintal. The traders or wholesalers and the producer do “not” have any direct contact. The broker is decisive in setting the price per unit of quantity, often making his own margin. There is no regulation governing the acts of the brokers and their behavior negatively affects the farmers. Every market actor makes its own margin. Hence, the more the farmers organize themselves and access the terminal market, the more they benefit. Being disorganized, they lose or fail to reap benefits from their produce.

Apart from brokers, the major constraints of marketing include lack of markets to absorb the production, low price for the products, and large number of traders in the marketing system. Lack of marketing institutions safeguarding farmers’ interest and rights over their marketable produces is a major constraint. Also, “lack” of coordination among producers to increase their bargaining power and poor product handling and packaging worked against the interest of farmers. Imperfect pricing system and lack of transparency in market information system mainly in the export market negatively affect the farmers. Informal transaction that prevails in the export system also hurts the Ethiopian farmers.

The farmers suffer from late payment, as producers and traders receive value for their products only after the exported product is sold. Also, there is a lack of standard for quality control and hence lack of discriminatory pricing system that accounts for quality and grades of the products. Ethiopian traders and producers of horticulture are not organized as partners to reap benefits they deserved. This requires the building of their business capacity and overcoming their constraints and enabling them to use market information. Institutionalizing the market system and the functioning of commission agents is crucial for benefiting the farmers. Such a system brings every operation and actors to the open, making it transparent for all, the producer, trader and the relevant agency of government.

Horticultural productivity is low due to the use of low level of technologies, risks associated with weather conditions, diseases and pests, and related problems. Moreover, due to the ever increasing population pressure, the land holding per household is declining leading to low level of production to meet the consumption requirement of the households. The Ethiopian highland is over populated, diminishing the carrying capacity of land. This leads to intensive production, promoting modern agro-enterprise development to increase land productivity. Horticulture production, by its nature, gives an opportunity for “intensive” production that increases smallholder farming. The production of horticultural crops is, therefore, a major element of the farming and the marketing system.

The Ethiopian Rural Development Strategy document has given emphasis to market-led agricultural development. This will be achieved by establishing and implementing grades and standards, improving the provision of market information, expanding and strengthening cooperatives, and improving and strengthening private sector participation in the agricultural system. The growing government support for market integration and agro-enterprise development provides an opportunity for the horticulture growers and market actors. This indicates that there is policy support for creating investment opportunities for horticulture.

Government encourages horticulture ventures. It supports production, transportation, grading, exporting and financing of the horticulture activities. It has been, however, witnessed that farmers are price takers and losers while the middlemen and exporters are major beneficiaries of the business. Farmers often receive a “marginally low” share of the price paid by the consumers for the horticultural products. The studies on a few horticulture produces such as potatoes pointed out that there is a greater need to diversify export earning options by improving the quality of produces supplied to the export market.

There is little or no information available on how to improve the efficiency of the market, particularly on how to improve the life of poor producers by increasing their share of the market price and enhancing farm productivity. In order to address these issues, it is necessary to generate further knowledge on the production and marketing of horticulture in the production area and inform policy makers about it. A study was conducted by Dr. B. Emana and et al on the major horticulture producing areas and major horticulture market centers in Ethiopia. The overall objective of the study was to assess constraints to maximum use of opportunities in vegetable production and marketing in the country.