Ethiopia Eyes Tropical Zones to Substitute Wheat Import

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Addis Ababa June 1/2019 Ethiopia will launch a project in tropical zones that would help it substitute the importation of wheat, the Ministry of Agriculture said.

The Integrated Wheat Production Enhancement Project is targeted to secure the wheat supply of the country in the coming three years by engaging tropical and highland areas. The project incorporates wheat harvest in the highland and tropical zones.

The Horn African country spends up to 500,000 USD per year to import wheat. The country covers its 17% to 40% of the total demand through imported wheat.

The government of Ethiopia has come up with this project as a major step in improving food security, cost recovery and import substitution.

In an exclusive interview with ENA, Esayas Lemma Director of Crop Development at the Ministry said the project will be launched in October 2019 tropical zones on 100,000 hectares land, he added. Part of the project that engage highland areas have already started during the current rainy season.

The potential for wheat production in the tropical zones has identified and the result from the pilot project conducted in Afar and Oromia regional states shows that there is an ample opportunity for such produce, he added. The wheat cultivated in the tropical zones will be harvested between 80 and 90 days.

“From the previous experiences, we have identified which variety of wheat should be applied in such tropical weather. Based on the assessment made, it has been secured 37 quintal of wheat per hectare in Afar and Oromia regional states. So, the pilot projects which have been applied in recent years are effective”.

Rehabilitation of acidic lands in the highland areas, and raising awareness of farmers on utilization of fertilizers will be conducted throughout the years in order to enhance productivity, the director said.

Accordingly, the volume of the land to be cultivated and wheat produce per year will be increased based on the demand for wheat.

“The wheat production on tropical zones needs the winter season to be activated. The project also considers being functional without affecting the regular crop season of pastoralists. The tropical season Wheat production project is normally operational during the low temperature period,” he said.

According to the Director, all the preparations have been finalized to make the tropical project operational in October using irrigation.

The budgetary issues of the project will be mainly covered by the government, though the door is also open for development partners and donors, the Director noted.

Through the project, the country expects to cultivate wheat on 88 million hectares of land by the end of the third year.