Market Assessment

Oilseeds business opportunities in Ethiopia, LEI Wageningen 2009

    In this study the business opportunities for Dutch companies in the Ethiopian oilseeds sector are explored. Opportunities for setting up sustainable export chains should mutually benefit Dutch companies as well as the Ethiopian oilseeds sector in particular and the Ethiopian society in general.

    Ethiopia has an attractive portfolio of high value specialty oilseeds for export markets. It is in the top 5 producing countries for sesame seed, linseed and niger seed. In addition, specialty seeds like safflower seed and castor beans are grown in Ethiopia. Most other oilseeds produced in Ethiopia (soybeans, cotton seed, rapeseed etc.) are commodities. For these commodities it will be difficult for Ethiopia to compete on the world market due to its relatively low volumes, low quality and high handling and transport costs. These oilseeds are important for local consumption.

    Oilseeds are the second export earner of Ethiopia. Growth and improvement of the oilseed sector can substantially contribute to the economic development at national, regional level and at family level. Oilseeds are considered as high value export products by the Ethiopian government. The government enhances the oilseeds sector by investment incentives (e.g. duty and tax income exemptions from 2 to 8 years for foreign investments).

    Many smallholders and a limited number of large farms grow oilseeds. Oilseeds are cash crops on subsistence farms. Production is characterised as labour intensive, low-input and rain-fed. The potentials to increase the production are huge. Productivity per ha for most oilseeds can be doubled with higher input levels and improved technologies and seeds. New virgin areas are fertile and offer good opportunities for organic and sustainable oilseeds production. Opportunities for oilseed export are not fully exploited yet because of inefficient marketing, improper cleaning and sometimes poor contract discipline. The attractive portfolio of specialty oilseeds offers business opportunities for both the Netherlands and Ethiopia especially in the following areas:

    Summary of results
    Investments in cleaning facilities for sesame seed
    Ethiopia has sesame seed varieties that are suitable for a wide range of applications. Highly developed consumer markets in Europe and elsewhere demand high purity levels (>99.5%) for bakery applications. Up-to-date cleaning machines are available in Ethiopia, but still have a very limited capacity.

    Investments in hulling facilities for sesame seed
    Sesame seed hulling is aimed at raw materials for the bakery industry. The value added of hulled sesame seed compared to untreated seeds is USD180-200/ton. At the moment no hulling facilities exist in Ethiopia. Organizing local crush and bottling of sesame oil. European crushing of sesame seed is limited. It is likely that the European sesame oil demand will grow, especially for use as wok oil. Volumes are small but highly profitable. Mostly sesame oil is sold in 250g-bottles for households and some in larger packaging to caterers. Transport from Ethiopia can be organized via IBCs for Europe and other destinations

    Setting up organic chains
    Due to the low levels of inputs and the use of virgin new areas, oilseed production in Ethiopia is near organic standards. The potential of exporting sesame seed under the organic farming label to Europe is seen as a prospect by many stakeholders in Ethiopia. Thanks to coffee basic knowledge and experience on organic production and certification is available. Some Dutch companies are already active in this field and public private cooperation for organic oilseeds could play a role in accelerating the development of this niche market.

    Exploration of opportunities for linseed and safflower seed
    Linseed is mainly used for domestic consumption in Ethiopia. Linseed is of increasing importance for the food industry in highly developed consumer markets due to the specific non-saturated fatty acids. As Ethiopia is the 5th world producer of linseed, export opportunities should be further explored. Safflower can be a dual-purpose crop: seeds as oil crop and the petals for extracting dyes. If high in linoleic (C18:2) setting up a supply chain to European users might be possible.