When a kilogramme of split peas, chickpeas, and grass peas, the main
ingredients to prepare shiro wot, still cost 13 Br
last month, it was relatively affordable for the
family of Yirgalem Taddesse, 65, a worker in a
Yirgalem earns a monthly net salary of 570 Br at the workshop where he
has been employed for the past 30 years. His limited
income supports his three underage children and his
He pays 13 Br in house rent for a one-room government house off Haile
Sellassie Street in Piazza, Arada District. The bulk
of his expenses goes towards buying enough food for
the family of five to eat two small meals everyday.
Yirgalem is struggling to make ends meet with the increase seen in the
prices of basic commodities over recent months.
Cowpeas and chickpeas are among the pulses whose prices have
significantly escalated from 850 Br for a quintal
in April 2010 to 1,050 Br in February 2011 and 1,850
Br in May 2011.
The prices of pulses such as fava beans and grass peas increased to
1,400 Br and 950 Br, respectively, at the wholesale
market at Ehil Berenda near Merkato in April 2011.
Ground lentils cost 2,000 Br while the whole variety
cost 1,850 Br.
While Yirgalem’s food expenses are steadily increasing, his income saw
a recent raise of only 150 Br. This has forced him
to replace teff, which is typically used to prepare
injera, with maize and sorghum, cereals that also
becoming more expensive.
From February to March 2011, the prices of maize, sorghum, wheat, and
teff increased by 21pc, 18pc, 14pc, and 10pc,
respectively, according to Global Food Price Monitor
of the World Food Programme (WFP).
The prices of various cereals showed a maximum increase of 200 Br for a
quintal over the past four weeks. Prices of a
quintal of teff, wheat, barley, sorghum, and maize
have escalated to 1,200 Br, 920 Br, 750 Br, 550 Br,
and 520 Br, respectively.
The production of these crops has significantly increased since
government policy placed an emphasis on the sector.
In 2009/10 the production of teff, the most produced cereal crop in the
country, increased from 30 million quintals to 31.7
million quintals, according to research conducted by
Shahidur Rashidin for the International Food Policy
Research Institute (IFPRI) in 2010. The production
of wheat increased from 25.4 million quintals to
30.7 million quintals and that of sorghum increased
from 28 million quintals to 29.7 million quintals,
the research showed.
A total of 155.3 million quintals of cereals, the country’s major food
crop, are annually produced on 9.2 million hectares,
amounting to 85pc of the country’s total production
of crops in 2009/10, according to data from the
Central Statistics Agency (CSA).
Yet, the prices and production of teff are seasonal.
“The price of teff increased because production will decrease as the
heavy rainy season approaches,” Mulugeta Tedla, a
trader at Ehil Berenda, told Fortune.
Retailers also charge more for the products than wholesalers at the
mills as they include their transportation costs.
Yet, at the retail level, cereals and pulses are mixed with produce of
lower quality, claimed wholesalers at Ehil Berenda.
This was contested by Mohammed Yima, a miller in Gergi, Bole District.
“I sell different qualities so mixing them would subject me to a loss
rather than profit,” he told Fortune.
However, Zeneba Ahmed, a part-time maid and long-time customer of
Mohammed, agreed with the wholesalers. Zeneba only
buys from Mohammed because she can buy from him on
credit as it helps her afford the food in spite of
continuous price increments, she claimed.
Around 40pc of household food expenditure goes to cereals, amounting to
an estimated 30pc of the GDP, according to data from
“The price increment of pulses results from a supply shortage from the
producers and hoarding done by traders in
anticipation of price increments,” said Mulugeta who
has been a trader at Ehil Berenda for the past 20
Ethiopia imported 2.3pc of the cereals sold on the
local market in 2010/11 at 2.5 million dollars,
according to research conducted by Access Capital
“As a short-term solution, the government may import commodities facing
a shortage,” advised Mikias Aklilu, a lecturer in
marketing at a private college.
“However, it must increase the large-scale commercial farming as a
The total land on which cereals, pulses, and oil crops are produced
reached 11.5 million hectares in 2009/10 while the
total output increased to 180.8 million quintals, an
average of 16ql on a hectare, which is estimated to
reach 22ql by 2014/15, according to the GTP.
Total annual exports reached two billion dollars, a growth of 38pc in
comparison with the previous year, according to ACS.
The major commodities were coffee, oilseeds, gold,
Khat, flowers, and pulses, the research found.
A total of 18.9 million quintals of pulses were produced in 2009/10, of
which eight million quintals were exported to earn
the country 130 million dollars, according to data
By contrast, the export of cereals is insignificant, showing a nominal
increase of only 0.2pc, the data showed.
“The international price might have an impact on the local markets,”
Mikias told Fortune. “The involvement of market
intermediaries also adds to the commodity price as
do the farmers who are informed about the prices.”
These prices are fixed based on the quality and origin of the cereals
of which most are cultivated in Oromia and Amhara
regional states, regions that are also the chief
exporters of pulses.
The increment seen on cereals is the first significant increment,
according to traders and customers, who said it is
becoming difficult to afford food.
This is a problem faced by Alemayehu Teklehaimanot, 26, an accountant
at a dry cargo company in Kality, on the outskirts
of Addis Abeba. He has been living alone for two
years since leaving his family home to be
Coping with the rising cost of living has become a nightmare for
Alemayehu. He spends 550 Br out of his 1,800Br gross
monthly salary on house rent. To reduce expenses, he
does not eat breakfast. His lunch, transportation,
and dinner, which he prepares at home, cost him an
average of 37 Br daily.
Dinner is usually shiro wot. One kilogramme of shiro lasts him no
longer than four days.
Two years ago, when he earned only 1,000 Br and paid only 300 Br in
rent, Alemayehu saved 100 Br monthly. Since then, he
has spent the total of his savings to cover his
This high expenditure is not uncommon.
Cereal Production, 2009/10 (In Millions of
Cereal production, 2005 - 2010
(In Millions of Quintals)
Cereals are the major food crops both
in terms of the area they are planted on, and the
volume of production obtained. Cereals contributed
85.9pc (about 155.3 million quintals) of the grain
production. Maize, wheat, teff and sorghum made up
21.6pc, 17pc, 18pc, and 16pc of the grain
The annual production of cereals also
shows a 15.8pc increment in the last five years from
133.8 million quintals to 155 million quintals.
Like Alemayehu and Yirgalem, a sizable number of urbanites have been
forced to make difficult financial decisions against
the backdrop of the spiralling food prices.
The total price index of cereals increased by 14.6pc in April 2011,
while that of pulses increased by 39.3pc in the
previous month, according to data from the CSA. This
contributed to the rise in the consumer price
indices (CPI) of food and general items, according
to the data.
In April 2011, the country level CPI increased by 29.5pc over the same
month the previous year due to the rise observed in
the indices of food to 32.2pc, the data showed.
However, the CPI of meat, of which a kilogramme is
capped to be sold at 52 Br, has declined to 4.3pc,
the CSA found.
The price of a kilogramme of shiro powder now equals half a kilogramme
of meat and is preferred by people like Yirgalem and
Alemayehu who earn low incomes, since it can be
rationed and last longer than perishable food.
The price of a kilogramme of processed shiro powder increased by 10 Br
at Liyu, while Selam Baltina sells a kilogramme of
white shiro powder for 26 Br.
The prices of shiro wot and missir wot (made from lentils) increased by
one Birr from the nine Birr it cost before in a
supermarket on the right side of Bole International
In the same shop, the price of fried dough, pasti, and homemade bread,
ambasha, which are prepared from white flour also
increased by one Birr from 1.50 Br and 1.75 Br,
Back at Ehil Berenda, the hustle and bustle of customers and
transactions usually seen at the market were absent
Monday, May 23. The majority of the traders were
desperately waiting to sell their products.
“I have not sold anything over the past three days because there are no
customers!” Mulugeta lamented.
The traders plan to introduce discounts to attract customers, he
This may draw Yirgalem, who is looking for part-time jobs to continue
feeding his family twice a day, to the market.
However, Alemayehu may not be a customer anymore, as
he is planning to move back in with his parents
since his landlord increased his rent by 100 Br.