WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S — Ethiopia’s oilseed sector, which is rapidly growing to meet both local and foreign demand, plays a vitally important economic role in generating foreign exchange earnings and income for the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said in a April 22 report. In fact, approximately one-fifth of Ethiopia’s total export earnings are generated from oilseed exports. In addition, the oilseed sector provides income to millions of growers and others involved in processing and trading.

In contrast to grain production, the impact of the drought on oilseed production was minimal. In fact, the production of major oilseeds – sesame, Niger seed and soybeans – is forecast to increase by 28,000 tonnes to 788,000 tonnes in market year 2015-16 (Oct-Sep). Soybeans, production fell slightly because of insufficient moisture. Looking further ahead, production of oilseeds is likely to increase to meet the growing demand for cooking oil and livestock ingredients, most notably soybean meal for poultry production.

Owing to the late rains and uneven rainfall distribution in some of the main soybean-producing areas, production for market year 2015-16 is forecast downward to 66,000 tonnes, a drop of 6,000 tonnes from previous year. Going forward, production is expected to rebound and continue its upward climb in order to meet some of the increasing local demand for edible oil and soybean meal for livestock feed, most notably soybean meal for poultry production. 
Over the last several years, soybean production has doubled from 35,000 tonnes in market year 2011-12 to 72,000 tonnes market year 2014-15. Most of this growth in production was due to an increase in the area planted and to a lesser extent improved yields. 

Soybeans contribute nearly 9% to the country’s total oilseed production and account for only 4% of area planted to oilseeds. The main soybean-producing areas are in the western part of the country in the Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz, and to a lesser extent the Amhara region. In these regions, the top-producing zones are Illubabor, Horogudru Wellega, East and West Wellega, Metekel, Assosa, Kemashi, Awi and West Gojjam. 

Soybean consumption, which continues to grow, is forecast to reach 41,000 tonnes in market year 2015-16. Consumption is expected to continue its upward climb as consumers demand more soy-based edible oil and as the poultry sector demands more soybean meal. In addition to oil, soybeans are used to make a variety of local foods, such as bread, chappati, porridge, soy milk, yoghurt as well as the traditional Ethiopian stew, shero wot. Soybeans are also used to make corn-soy blend (CSB) for emergency food assistance programs run by international organizations and the Ethiopian government.

With growing local demand and lower production this year, soybean exports are expected to contract to 21,000 tonnes. Main export destinations include Sudan, Indonesia, Kenya, Netherlands and Vietnam. Considering the growing demand for soybeans, post expects that exports will fall to near zero in the near future. Furthermore, Ethiopia may begin to import soybeans since local demand will likely outstrip production capacity. In market year 2014-15, exports reached nearly 28,000 tonnes, valued at $13.3 million. Nearly one-third of production was exported during this period.