Soybean production on the rise in Ethiopia

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/JTSorrell
© GettyImages/JTSorrell

Related tags Soybean Ethiopia

The USDA predicts that the production of soybeans will climb in Ethiopia, partially due to requirements for the raw material in livestock feed – soybean meal for poultry production.

A report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that in MY18/19 soybean production in that African country will be at around 120,000 metric tons, up 5,000 metric tons in response to the growing local demand.

Soybean production has more than tripled from 35,000 metric tons in MY11/12 in Ethiopia, according to the publication.

Most of this growth in production was due to an increase in the area planted. About half of the total soybean production comes from a few relatively large-scale commercial operations, some of which are rotating or inter-planting soybeans with other crops. Improved yields also contributed to production increases, said the USDA.

The main soybean producing areas are in the western part of the country, in Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz, and, to a lesser extent, in the Amhara region. These areas are said to have vast fertile land and a favorable agro-climate suited to growing soybeans. 

ethiopia soybean exports
Ethiopian soybean export data for 2017/2018 © USDA

The USDA forecast that soybean consumption in MY18/19 in Ethiopia will reach 43,000 metric tons.  

Ethiopian soybean export data 

It expects MY18/19 soybean exports from that country to remain unchanged from the previous year’s record: “Exports jumped a little more than 30,000 metric tons in MY17/18 to nearly 80,000 metric tons in large part because of increased demand from India.”

About 95% of Ethiopia’s soybean exports go to five countries including India, China, Vietnam, Canada, and Pakistan, said the US agency’s report.

“Ethiopia’s oilseed sector plays an important role in generating foreign exchange earnings for the country. In MY16/17 (Oct-Sep), exports of major oilseeds – sesame, Niger seed, and soybeans – generated nearly $360m in export earnings. In addition, the oilseed sector provides income to millions of growers and others market actors along the value chain.”

Soybean production trendsi in Sub-Saharan Africa

A Dutch report​, published at the end of 2015, noted that Sub-Saharan Africa (SS) was growing more soybeans than it could process with soybean meal and oil production limited by a lack of processing capacity throughout the region. 

South Africa is the largest soybean producer in SSA as per 2016 data, followed by Nigeria, Zambia, and Uganda. Along with Ethiopia other countries including Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ghana, and Sudan, have all experienced sizeable commercial soybean expansion, noted a study​ in The Crop Journal. 

In response to low phosphorus availability in SSA soils, which has strongly constrained tropical soybean yield potential across SSA, research scientists at the University of Illinois and the national soybean improvement program of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) in Ethiopia have been working on developing low-phosphorus-tolerant soybean varieties that will thrive in the nutrient-poor soils common in SSA, according to that study. 

That research also found soybean crushing had increased dramatically in South Africa and Nigeria over the past number of year - from 25,000  tons in 1986 to 1,000,000  tons in 2016 in South Africa and from 5,000  tons in 1986 to 350,000 tons in 2016 in Nigeria.

The authors said "scaling up of soybean production and utilization in SSA countries can be further promoted through strengthening the entire soybean value chain and networking research scientists, policy makers, extension services, non-governmental organizations, and public and private breeders."

Related topics Markets Poultry Africa Oilseeds

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