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BusinessInjera exporters decry transport restrictions, gov’t indifference

Injera exporters decry transport restrictions, gov’t indifference

Exports generated USD11 mln last year

A lobby group representing exporters of injera has appealed against a recent decision from the Addis Ababa Traffic Management Bureau it says is hampering an overburdened injera export industry.

Bureau heads recently announced a month-long suspension of special permits that enable heavy trucks to move around the capital outside of prescribed hours. The decision has been met with concern and uproar from various industries, including businesses engaged in the export of injera.

The restriction hampers the prompt delivery of freshly-baked and quickly perishable injera to airlines for transport to destination countries, argues Rahel Moges, president of the Ethiopian Bread and Bread Products Exporters Association.

She says the new transport restrictions are placing added pressure on exporters already struggling to meet demand.

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Prices for inputs, namely teff flour, have skyrocketed. A kilo of teff sells for between 100 and 130 birr.

Exporters are appealing for adjustments that would enable them to procure teff at competitive prices. They also want to see priority status in customs clearance processes, and the reinstatement of incentives they had previously enjoyed. 

The plea extends to duty-free benefits for the import of modern machinery, according to research from the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Center, which indicates an average 32 percent value addition in bread production with the use of advanced technology.

Rahel warns that unless these problems are swiftly addressed, the injera export business will suffer significant setbacks.

Industry insiders say a tendency among government institutions and officials to downplay the significance of injera exports is also an issue. They complain that concerns from injera exporters are often met with indifference, making it more difficult to overcome hurdles.

The industry also struggles with quality control. Some exporters compromise on quality by purchasing low-grade injera from regular markets, neglecting producers who adhere to export standards. This compromises the market and poses a threat to the industry’s integrity.

Addisu Barega, a representative of a company engaged in exporting injera, echoes the concerns and notes unproductive responses from the Traffic Management Bureau  when complaints about transport restrictions were raised.

Bekele Mekuria, director-general of the Food and Beverage Industry Research and Development Center, emphasizes that transportation is the primary challenge facing injera exporters.

He disclosed the Center is working with Bureau officials to ensure smoother transportation for exporters. 

As the industry grapples with transportation challenges, the significance of injera extends far beyond borders, reaching markets with sizable Ethiopian diaspora populations, including the US and Europe.

Injera, a traditional Ethiopian flatbread made from teff, a round grain flourishing in the highlands of Ethiopia, has become an emblem of the country’s culinary heritage. Teff, known for its high nutritional value and minimal gluten content, is the cornerstone of injera production.

In 2020, over a dozen legally registered companies engaged in injera exports, contributing to revenues of slightly lower than eight million dollars. By the end of last year, the number of exporters had grown to 30, and revenues climbed to 11 million dollars.

The largest markets are the US, Europe and the Middle East.

This humble flatbread, deeply rooted in Ethiopian culture, has transcended borders, becoming a small but vital source of foreign currency for the country.

The nascent industry hopes to see a mutually agreed-upon injera pricing structure in its overseas markets take it a step forward towards sustainable growth.

Floor prices for injera in overseas markets have been negotiated and agreed upon, according to Rahel.

Officials and the Association expect an average 41 percent increase in floor price. The floor price for injera destined for markets in the US is set at 1.35 USD a unit, while the Canadian market will see injera sold for 1.2 USD per unit.

The hope is to secure the uninterrupted flow of injera, not just monthly, but every day, ensuring its place on tables around the world and contributing to Ethiopia’s economy, said Mekuria.

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