Ethiopia’s agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors, which contributed 31.1 per cent to the country’s GDP in 2018, are crucial sectors as they employ two thirds of its labour force according to a recent report by Research and Markets.
Smallholder farmers account for 95 per cent of the sector’s production and commercial farms account for the balance. The agri-business sector depends on traditional farming methods and a rain-fed farming system, and the cost of production inputs and transportation is high. Ethiopia’s main staple crop is maize, while the main cash crops are coffee and sesame seed.
Ethiopia is the birthplace of Arabica coffee and is the biggest coffee drinking country in Africa. Coffee is Ethiopia’s largest export product and a high-value cash crop, and is considered of strategic national importance as it employs many of the country’s people. One of the challenges faced by the coffee sector is that many coffee farmers, especially in the eastern parts of Ethiopia, are replacing the cultivation of coffee with other crops. Coffee production is decreasing due to rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall, caused by climate change. The government is advising farmers to move their coffee plantations to higher altitudes where temperatures are lower and rainfall higher.
Despite favourable conditions for the production of a variety of crops, crop yields are low because there is limited use of improved seeds, fertilisers and pesticides, and irrigation is not widely used.