Ethiopia’s staple grain is the latest superfood, but there are fears about impact of rising exports on local people who rely on it as their staple food

By Laura Secorun (The Guardian) |

There are two inescapable foods in Ethiopia, coffee and teff. While Ethiopian coffee is famous worldwide, the country’s staple grain is still a stranger to western palates. But food entrepreneurs hope teff will soon be as ubiquitous in British supermarkets as it is in Addis Ababa’s kitchens.

Ethiopians have been planting teff – the base of their renowned injera bread – for more than 3,000 years. Yet for businessmen like Aleem Ahmed, this gluten-free grain, packed with amino acids, has the potential to become a lucrative superfood. Companies like Ahmed’s Love Grain in the US or Tobia Teff in the UK want to provide westerners with a healthier alternative to wheat while helping Ethiopian farmers thrive.

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A big caveat: exports of teff from Ethiopia were banned for almost a decade. In 2006, the government outlawed international sales of the grain for fear of suffering the same fate as Bolivia during the recent “quinoa fever”. After being branded a superfood, demand for this Andean grain skyrocketed, increasing its price tenfold between 2009 and 2013, with some claiming this affected food security in the Andes.

In Ethiopia, where one in ten people were in need of food assistance this year, a similar spike in teff prices could have serious humanitarian consequences. Khalid Bomba, the head of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), said that the Ethiopian government had been following the developments in Bolivia and Peru very closely. “What happened with quinoa will not happen with teff. We just won’t let it,” he says.

Continue reading this story on The Guardian
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