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The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) called on breweries to enter into more purchase agreements with farmers in order to save foreign currency on imported malt.
Beer production has increased significantly in recent years and currently seven million hectoliters of beer is being produced in the country. To produce beer amounting to that, breweries need 196,000 tons of barley grain every year. Yet, only 40 percent of the demand for barley grain is filled by local supply.
Local production of good quality barley grain is hampered by traditional production methods, unavailability of quality seeds, poor soil fertility, and lack of market linkage.
Dr. Berhane Lakew, a National Research coordinator at EIAR, explains “Ethiopia’s barley production has increased by 15, even up to 20 percent, we are entertaining a paradoxical situation. We have one million hectares of land suitable for growing barley that can be used for malting but our production lags behind the demand due to technical problems that are surrounding us.”
“Breweries have gained good results by supporting some farmers to produce quality barley crops but this work has not been expanded to all producers. Making more agreements with farmers is a big assignment companies have to complete if they want to buy locally and reduce their costs. On the other hand, regional agricultural bureaus must work tirelessly to link farmers with companies” Dr. Berhane said. He also added that researching new barley malt technologies, promotion of package-based extension schemes for the production of barley malt, and introduction of incentive mechanisms are crucial to boost the production.
Farmers state that minimal support they get from government organizations on soil research is one of the factors that is contributing to low quality grain production. This in turn attracted fewer breweries. Tewabu Derba, a farmer from Holeta said, “I have a hectare of land which produces up to 40 quintals of malt barley. But the soil losses its fertility over time and that affects the quality of the grain I produced, and I lose buyers. If the government helps us to improve the fertility of the land and create a market linkage for us the problem can be solved.” Tewabu also called on breweries to work with farmers and support them by providing technical support.
Tarkegne Garumssa, Raw Material Development marketer at Heineken Brewery said “There is a good progress that is being seen from breweries regarding working with farmers. For example, our company supports 6,000 farmers to harvest quality malt barley. But farmers still face several challenges such as acquiring large farmland and obtaining improved seed”.