Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia's Chickpea Industry Sees Boost By Large-Scale Initiative

A Guts Agro Industry initiative means that Ethiopia's staple Shiro dish will soon be pre-packaged and available in supermarkets and shops after the company secured 66,000 dollars in funding from USAID.

Shiro, made from roasted ground chickpeas, has long been produced by Ethiopian businesses relying predominantly on traditional methods. Guts, a 20 million Br factory, currently produces maize-based Lembo snacks, iodized salt and, in collaboration with PEPSICO, Ready to Use Supplementary Food (RUSF).

The company have taken a step forward in the production process for Shiro, establishing a separate line at its factory that is dedicated to two types of the meal. One of the Shiro products is pure chickpea powder, while the other is meten (balanced), which is a ready-to-cook mix that includes various spices. The latter has been named Yanet shiro.

Guts Agro Industry was established in 2005. Four years later it won a contract with the World Food Program, through which, between 2009 and 2013, it was able to deliver a total of 280,000ql of RUSF, an average of nearly 6,000 quintals a month.

It is now benefiting from yet further international support, with the funding from USAID facilitating its acquisition of a grain separator, mill, roaster, mixer and packer from India, machinery that is worth approximately five million Br. This aid also allowed Gut to buy quality chickpea seeds from farmers in Becho Weliso, Erer and Lume Adama farmers cooperative unions in the Oromia Region, establishing the supply of ingredients necessary for these new products. The company currently has two production facilities, employing 200 workers in the Southern regional town of Hawassa and Bishoftu in Oromia.

The company's new chickpea products were launched on Thursday April 10, 2014, at a ceremony at Yod Abyssinia Restaurant, attended by representatives from USAID, the World Food Program (WFP), the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) and representatives of different farmers' unions in the Oromia Region. A 10-minute video on Gut was played at the launch where former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, making a speech at a conference, was heard applauding Guts as a successful agro-industrial venture.

Guts Agro Industry expects to procure 4,000Mt of chickpea from 52,000 smallholders, who are part of the unions. According to Dejene Hirpa, general manager of the Union, Guts has to date received 600qls of chickpea from Becho out of a total order of 1,000qls, says Dejene. The union was established in 2000 and now has 59 primarycooperative members with a total of 58,712 member farmers. The supply has been priced at 730 Br, 30 Br more than the current market price.

The unions working with Guts have received Kabuli chickpea seeds from the Ethiopian Seed Enterprise that were developed at its Bishoftu Research Centre. Becho, located in Becho woreda in South West Shoa Zone of the Oromia Region, has received 1,248ql over the past year. The seeds were paid for by the USAID.

Chickpea is one of the leading value chains in Ethiopia, with the country ranked 6th in the world and the first in Africa, with an annual chickpea production of over 322,000Mt, according to the FAO's report in 2010. According to the Central Statistics Agency (CSA), there are more than 800,000 smallholder farmers involved in chickpea production across Ethiopia.

Guts started supplying its meten shiro to retailers earlier this month at 21 Br for a package of half a kilo. A consumers' association store near Bulgaria Mazoria in Kirkos District has decided to sell the product for just 22 Br, with a margin of just one Birr. Guts intends to distribute its products via the consumers' associations stores, Hasset Wholesalers and the as yet under formation Alle Bejimla, a state-owned wholesale apparatus.

Its current production stands at 20qls a day, says Andualem Kidane, its marketing manager, although its capacity is 50ql.

Guts intends to venture into the export market in the future; it has already acquired approval from the Food, Medicine and Health Care Administration & Control Authority (FMHCACA) to access the US market as it aims to tap into domestic markets and Ethiopian communities around the globe. Other potentially lucrative markets include the Middle East, India and West Africa. The Company has directed 25pc of its production for export while the rest will be sold in the domestic market, according to the marketing manager.

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