Will Ethiopia’s Teff be The Next ‘Super Grain’?
Posted by addisethiopia on April 3, 2015
Under a bright blue sky, a farmer in a sleeveless red jumper is encouraging his five oxen to stamp on piles of dried grass, to help dislodge the seeds.
Nearby, other farm workers are using pitchforks to do the same job, throwing the grass into the air in an ancient process known as winnowing.
This is a harvest scene in rural Ethiopia, which at this time of the year is replicated across the length and breadth of the country.
The seed, or grain, in question is called teff.
Ethiopians have been growing and obsessing about teff for millennia, and it may become the new “super grain” of choice in Europe and North America, overtaking the likes of quinoa and spelt.
High in protein and calcium, and gluten-free, teff is already growing in popularity on the international stage.
Yet as teff is a staple foodstuff in Ethiopia, particularly when turned into a grey flatbread called injera, the country currently has a long-standing ban on exporting the grain, either in its raw form, or after it has been ground into flour.
Instead, entrepreneurial Ethiopian companies can at present only export injera and other cooked teff products, such as cakes and biscuits.
However, the hope is that if Ethiopia can sufficiently increase its teff harvest, then exports of the grain itself may be able to start in the not too distant future.
“We started from scratch, and are now introducing our traditional food all over the world,” says Hailu Tessema, founder of Mama Fresh, Ethiopia’s first large-scale producer of injera.
The average yield per hectare of teff in Ethiopia is 1.4 tonnes, which is less than half as much as the global average of 3.2 tonnes for modern varieties of wheat.