Dissemination, Constraints and Opportunities for Improving Tef Productivity: Evidence from Demonstration Trials

Abate Bekele


Tef [Eragrostis tef (Zucc). Trotter] is the most important food crop in Ethiopia where it is annually cultivated on over three million hectares of land, which is equivalent to 30% of the total area allocated to cereals. Compared to other cereal crops, such as wheat and maize, tef has higher tolerance to unfavorable environmental conditions which include both biotic and abiotic stresses. Since the inception of tef improvement program in Ethiopia in the late 1950s, 42 improved varieties have been released by the national research System. However, cost of production and economic benefit derived from tef farming was not clearly understood.A study was carried out in the field plots of 40 smallholder farmers in four districts (namely, Ada, Gimbichu, Moretna-Jirru, and Minjar-Shenkora) where tef is the major cereal crop in order to assess the economics aspects of the tef faming venture. Three recently released tef varieties Tesfa, Dagim and Boset were used for the study. The yields of the three varieties were comparable (Tesfa = 2.31, Dagim = 2.24 and Boset = 2.12 t ha-1). The average variable production cost  for the three varieties was 23,756.09 Birr ha-1. Given the input and output prices that prevail in the selected districts, the lead farmers obtained, on average, a gross income of 36,673.25 ETB ha-1. Analysis of the variable production cost structure revealed that the highest proportion of the production costs across the forty lead farmers went to the cost of labor (63.2%) and fertilizer (18.2%).  From the total labor costs used in tef production, the lion’s share went to harvesting (57.1%) and weeding (24.8%). Thus, harvesting and weeding are the most critical factors that affect tef production and productivity, and thereby its gross margin.

Keywords: Eragrostis tef, Productivity, tef varieties, variable cost and gross margin

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