Annual cereals production has been a hot issue in Ethiopia since the drought and severe famine of 1984-85. Despite regular alarming news since then, the long term trend in cereals production is rising. This is best seen in the FAO-statistics 1993-2012 (Fig. 1; current country statistics for Ethiopia starts from 1993 after Eritrea had diverted from the previously combined area).
Fig. 1: Cereals production. Faostat
The rise in the cereals production is not linear but accelerating (the R2 values: for 2nd degree polynomial 0.9278, for exponential 0.8966 and for linear equation 0.8859).
In 19 years the Ethiopia cereals production has grown from 6.5 million tonnes to 18.0 million tonnes (as calculated from the regression curve). The increment is 2.8 fold.
The average annual increment in the total production is 0.61 million tonnes per annum. During the last five years (2007-2012) the production has risen from 13.2 to 18.0 million tonnes, that is by 4.8 mill tonnes, or by 37 per cent.
The rising trend in the total cereals production is mainly due to increments in the area for the cereal crops annually harvested. The area increment is on average 218,000 ha per annum (Fig. 2). Majority of this, perhaps 150,000 – 200,000 ha/a is due to reclaiming degraded or other poor land for agriculture. In Ethiopia smaller proportion, maybe 50,000 – 100,000 ha/a comes from reclaiming the remaining virgin forests.
The rise in the cereals area is non-linear, downwards (the R2 values: for 2nd degree polynomial 0.7870, for logarithmic 0.7468 and for linear equation 0.7463). The abating area growth tells about the scarcity of suitable, new cropping land.
Fig. 2: Cereals area. Faostat.
The total area for cereals production (from regression curve) has grown from 5.2 into 9.3 million hectares; the increment is 1.8 fold. During the last 5 years (2007-2012) the cereals area has risen from 5.2 to 9.3 million hectares. The rise is 4.1 million hectares, or 46 per cent.
As the cereals production is on a rising (accelerating) trend and the cereals area on an abating growth trend it means that the average annual cereals yield kg per ha, must be on a rising trend. This can be seen in Figure 3.
Fig. 3: Cereals mean yield. Faostat.
It is notable that the growth percentage for annual cereals area is less than the growth percentage for the total cereals production. This means that the average cereal yields, as calculated in tonnes per hectare (or kg/ha) must have risen over the 19 years’ period. This is also the case in the Faostat statistics (Fig. 3.). The mean cereal yields have risen on average by 38.5 kg/ha/yr.
The mean cereal yields are also on an accelerating rising trend (the R2 values: for 2nd degree polynomial 0.8602, for exponential 0.6808 and for linear equation 0.6835). Then average increment over 19 years is 38.4 kg/ha/yr.
The mean cereal yields (from the regression line) have risen from 1198 kg/ha into 1927 kg/ha; the increment is 1.6 fold.
The continuous rise in the mean per hectare yields is somewhat surprising, as in the Ethiopian farmers due to general scarcity of land have been forced to reclaim new lands from eroded and steep hill sides. One might have expected that this leads to sinking yield level trend, instead of rising one.
Comparison to Fao-Giews data
The Fao-Giews (Global Information and Early Warning System) data is updated several times per year. The latest data is from July 2013. In the Fao-Giews data the latest year is always prognosis. The previous year data is also frequently updated along with the time.
In the Fao-Giews data (Fig 4) the rate of increment in the annual cereals production is even steeper than in the Faostat basic data (Fig 1.). The rise is accelerating, non-linear (the R2 values: for 2nd degree polynomial 0.9599, for exponential 0.8790 and for linear equation 0.8561).
Fig. 4: Cereals production. FAO-GIEWS
In 20 years the Ethiopia cereals production has grown from 8.1 million tonnes to 22.7 million tonnes (as calculated from the regression curve). The increment is 2.8 fold.
The average annual increment in the total production is 0.73 tn/tonnes per year (0.61 tn/yr in Faostat data).
Over the last 5 years (the Tana-Beles project period 2008-2013) the toal annual cereals production has risen from 15.5 million tonnes into 22.7 million tonnes, that by 7.2 million tonnes. It is an increment of 46 per cent.