Ethiopia is home to more than 70% of Africa’s mountains- but, it’s also home to a decent-sized market for chickpeas.
Ethiopia is located in East Africa right at the tip of its Horn and is home to about 100 million people. From a trade standpoint, Ethiopia is not a major player on the world pulse market but pulses do play an important role in the country’s food security and economy.
According to the USDA attache in Ethiopia, pulses are the third largest exported agricultural commodity after coffee and oilseeds.  We have to point though that pulses are imported there for humanitarian food relief.
On the production front, Ethiopia produces a sizable quantity of pulses, as shown on the chart below. Over the past four marketing years (from 2013/14 to 2016/17), Ethiopia produced on average 2.7 million tonnes of pulses!
When it comes to chickpeas, on average, 425,000 tonnes are produced each year or roughly 16% of the country’s total pulse crop production. However, the size of the Ethiopian chickpeas crop has been trending significantly lower in recent years, dropping from 424,000 tonnes in 2013/14 to 343,000 tonnes in 2016/17.
On the demand front, about three-quarters of production goes to the local feed or human food market. For the latter, the consumption of pulses increases notably during the 250+ fasting days where literally millions of Ethiopian Orthodox church members eat only plant-based foods.
For imports, the country brings in an average of 55,000 tonnes of pulses per year. We have to point that the bulk of these imports are coming from the US.
On the exports front, Ethiopia exported on average 320,000 metric tonnes of pulses and it seems like they’re starting to trend higher (as shown on the chart).
Pulse varieties such as dried kidney beans were the top-exported pulse varieties, accounting on average for about 186,000 tonnes or 55% of the total export volumes over the past four years.
Chickpeas exports are the second-largest exports of pulses by Ethiopia, accounting for roughly 55,000 tonnes or 17% of total pulse exports. We need to point that chickpeas have been a major driver behind the growth of Ethiopia’s pulse exports. However, this is a bit ironic given that production has dropped by 20% in 4 years, whereas exports have grown by two-thirds over the same timeframe to 78,000 tonnes in 2016/17.
Pakistan is a top export destination for Ethiopian pulses. Countries such as Kenya, Vietnam, Indonesia, UAE, Vietnam, and Belgium are also buying pulses produced by the East African nation.
Clearly, Ethiopia is not a competitor for Canada nor the US on the chickpeas markets. In contrast, the country is one of the largest recipients of pulse crops, namely peas and lentils for humanitarian assistance purposes. According to the USDA attache, Ethiopia imported roughly 65,000 metric tons, most of which were chickpeas imported from the US.
Considering that population of Ethiopia has been growing by an average of about 2.7% every year for the past two decades, the number of mouths that need to be fed won’t be declining. Combined with more political stability (which usually leads to economic growth), the buying power of consumers in this country could be boosted. Such an outcome, in turn, could trigger an increase of pulses consumption per capita as this country’s consumers can afford to buy more food.
While they’re not a major importer of pulses, they certainly do a fairly decent job exporting pulses to the rest of the world.