Over 500,000 hectares of sesame farm, which is 70 percent of Ethiopia’s annual cultivation for the cash crop, skipped a season without being cultivated due to the ongoing war in northern Ethiopia.
“Majority of sesame production is cultivated in Gondar and Tigray. Farmers in these areas have evacuated and currently migrated to urban areas. Most of their land is not cultivated for the current main Meher season. Even those who have sowed have abandoned their farms,” said Isayas Lemma, Crop Development director at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA).
“Other crops are also affected but the northern region is a sesame-farming corridor, which will affect export of sesame for the current year. Farmers from these areas, who used to feed themselves, currently need humanitarian aid. The situation also depletes the availability of grains in the market, inducing inflation,” added Isayas.
Ethiopia produces close to two million quintals of sesame annually, exporting more than half of it directly. Specifically, the Humera sesame fetches premium price in the international market.
Sesame, a major export commodity, was becoming expensive, with its price doubling to 6,000 birr per quintal in three years. China is the leading destination for Ethiopian sesame, which it exports to South Korea and Japan after certain value additions.
Insiders say most of the large-scale sesame farmers who fled the conflict in Tigray and Gondar will bulge the Non-Performing Loans of the Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE), since it provided loans for sesame commercial farmers.
Ethiopia’s sesame farms have already been thinning out after the Sudanese military occupied up to 40 kilometers of Ethiopia’s territory in Gondar, which is a highly fertile land for sesame production. The Sudan government recently disclosed it harvested a high yield of sesame from the land it occupied almost for a year now.
After a series of events led to a “law enforcement operation” on November 4, 2020 in Tigray regional state, the conflict has currently engulfed Amhara and Afar regional states with widening implications on Ethiopia.