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SBN stakeholders discuss on the complex and multifaceted challenges of the sesame sector

  • SBN stakeholders discuss on the complex and multifaceted challenges of the sesame sector
    • Evaluation of the 2016 sesame production and marketing season showed that the sesame business is at stake.
    • Farmers’ adoption of improved sesame production technologies is not going as expected. Farmers failure of using the improved package; lack or limited availability of credit, low market price, security problems, investor farmers limited or no usage of inputs, pest and disease infestations, lack of row planters etc. were among the major challenges raised and discussed
    • SBN stakeholders said they will do their level best to search for solutions for the multifaceted challenges. It was said that further integrated and collaborated actions of the various stakeholders and partners is needed to improve the sesame business from its current position

    Amhara Region Sesame Business Network (SBN) stakeholders and value chain alliance annual workshop was held at Gondar in the 23rd and 24th of December, 2016.  The workshop brought together about 100 participants drawn from the six-sesame producing woredas, the two zones and from the region bureaus. The workshop was organised by Amhara region Bureau of Agriculture (BoA), Agricultural Research Institute (ARAI), Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) and Benefit-SBN.

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    Ambassador Wuletaw, providing opening remarks

    The workshop was opened by the welcoming speech of Ambassador Wuletaw Mebratie, Director of Amhara Region Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA). In his speech, Ambassador Wuletaw said that the objective of the workshop was to discuss on the major challenges encountered in the process of sesame production, finance and marketing. He said the inputs gained from the workshop will give the regional government directions for supporting the sector. The workshop will also help to identify the opportunities on how the different stakeholders such as Gondar University and research centres will play their active role in supporting the sector. He also mentioned his belief that such platforms will help stakeholders and partners discuss on the challenges and come up with possible solutions.

    Following Ambassador Wuletaw’s opening remark, the result of a technical team evaluation of the 2016 sesame production on the region, Benefit-SBN 2016 activities and results, Gondar Agricultural Research Center’s research activities and results were presented by Mr. Tesfaye Kassie, Dr. Geremew Terefe and Asfaw Azenaw from ATA, Benefit-SBN and GARC, respectively. Then results and evaluation of sesame rolling out activities were presented by the representatives of Mirab Armachiho, Metema and Jawi woredas. Presenters highlighted major activities done, challenges faced and they also suggested possible solutions to meet the challenges. The other three woredas also reflected on the sesame rolling out in their woredas. In the afternoon, general discussions and reflections were made by participants.

    In the second day Amhara Credit and Saving Institute (ACSI), Ethiopian Agricultural Commodities Warehousing Service Enterprises (EACWSE). Tshay and Metema Union, Trade, Industry and Market Development Bureau presented the activities, results and challenges they faced in the 2016 production and marketing season. Benefit-SBN presented the kebele level strategy that will be implemented in 2017. The participants were divided into two group- one group focusing on production and the other group discussed on finance and marketing related issues. The result of the discussions were presented to the participants.

    The workshop was adjourned by the concluding remark of Ambassador Wuletaw Mebratie and Mr. Tesfaye Amsal, vice administrator of North Gondar zone.

    Despite great efforts, adoption of improved sesame production does not go as expected

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    Participants, attending presentations

    The overall tone of the presentations and discussions made on the production side showed that the sesame production is currently at stake. Contrary to the efforts made (training, demonstrations, and input availing…), the adoption of improved sesame technologies has been way below the expectations. Major challenges mentioned are: farmers failure to use improved technologies- many farmers are still sticking to the conventional practices; farmers not using all the steps of the improved technology; pest and disease infestation, lack of row planter, sesame market price decline which made farmers to shift to other crops (about 40,000 ha); limited availability of credit and/or the limited credit is not available in the proper time; security problem during the production season; investor farmers resistance to use inputs and other improved technologies; infrastructure problem; lack of proper follow up and controlling; labour shortage; too much rain etc.

    ATA’s sesame value chain technical team field report showed that input use of farmers is limited. It was planned to utilise 68,796 quintal fertiliser and 580 quintal quality seed but it was found that 19,004 (which is only 32%) fertiliser and 328 quintal seed (57%) were used. In terms of land coverage, out of the expected 260,959 ha, 221,798 ha land was cultivated in sesame.

    Presenters and participant farmers emphasised on the lack of proper technology such as row planting as a crucial challenge. Without having such machineries especially row planter, said one investor farmer participant, it is difficult to use the recommended improved technology. He said it is just like putting the cart before the horse.

    However, in his presentation Asfaw from GARC has stated the efforts made in introducing the row planters.  He said, Benefit- SBN in collaboration with GARC and HuARC has been testing and demonstrating row planters. This parties will continue demonstrating Sfoggia tractor which is found to be promising.

    Credit- the views of investor farmers and financial organisation seem to be apart

    The issue of finance is one of the most important concerns of the participants of the workshop. In this regard loan takers- investor farmers and loan givers – financial organisations do not seem to come in agreement. Investor farmers voiced their compliant against the credit service of financial institutions. They said considering the current high production cost, the amount of credit given is not sufficient. It is not enough to perform the activities from land cleaning to post production activities. They also complained about the timing of credit. They said last production season they get credit late. They further said they need more time to repay the credit that they have already taken. Some do not pass without appreciating the efforts made by the financial institutions, especial ACSI’s effort, but they still mentioned that they got the credit late, during the weeding time.

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    Finance group, discussing on the major challenges

    It was, however, mentioned that the regional government was committed to support investor farmers and made a bigger stride in this aspect. By discussing with ACSI, the regional government arranged a special sesame loan for investor farmers. ACSI came up with a special product and availed a 4,500 birr credit per hectare for investor farmers’.  It was said there were investor farmers who took up to 4 million birr. Discussants from the financial institutions, however, mentioned that the commitment of the investor farmers was disappointing. Most investor farmers did not seem to use the money for sesame production. They did not buy inputs- fertiliser and improved seed. It is said they used the money for their other investment by leaving their land fallow or renting the land to others.

    Mr. Birara from ACSI said: “there are few investor farmers who can be role models for others. Contrariwise, most investor farmers do have problems. They do not apply even 10 of the 20 Steps. Research show that using inputs increase production and productivity but more than 90 per cent of the investor farmers are not using inputs.” He further added, we provide credit with surety and we observe that people are not using the money for sesame production. They are not also repaying the loan in the expected time.

    Discussants from banks also mentioned that they are trying to support the sesame business but investor farmers’ action is not encouraging.

    Some participants of the workshop voiced their compliant against EACWSE’s and ECX’s system

    Some investor farmer participants criticised the grading system and the warehouse service at Ethiopian Agricultural Commodities Warehousing Service Enterprises (EACWSE) and ECX. Subjectivity and lack of proper grading system, corruption, and the limited storage waiting time (30 days) were the main points of the complaints. The introduction of the e-trading system at the ECX has also been mentioned as a problem. Suppliers are expected to come with 50 or 100 quintals, if there are odd lots, suppliers are forced to sell the odd lots at a very low price. What is more, cars loaded with sesame are forced to stay for days before they get into the warehouse and unloaded and this costs suppliers a lot.

    An investor farmer said his one loaded car sesame was graded as UG just by taking sample from others. He appealed and after some days they check it and gave it grade three. The farmer, however, had to pay for the car which stayed there loaded for more than 10 days. Another investor farmer said he paid 3,000 birr so that his sesame could be graded fairly.

    Sesame marketing gets sick

    Although sesame is an important commodity which fetches foreign currency for the country, currently its market price is declining time after time. Solutions need to be sought out to the marketing problems. Mr. Mulualem Milmile, an investor farmer, who participated in the workshop said: “at this moment sesame marketing is sick”. He added: “discussing about inputs and machineries alone while the market price is declining way below the expected may not seem fair.  The 4,000 birr price per quintal during 2013 created a challenge for us now. Labour, food and other costs are becoming very high. What we spend and what we get do not match. There should be some kind of solution for the market price problem.”

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    Mr. Endalkachew presenting 2016 activities of Tshay Union

    Mr. Endalkachew from Tshay Union also emphasised that the sesame market price is declining year to year. He appreciated the government for allowing farmers primary cooperatives to export sesame through their unions. He added what the individual exporters do right now is creating a challenge for unions. He said exporters are buying sesame in a relatively expensive price and selling it with cheap price. He suggested the government should control the exporters.

    The sesame market is governed by the international market. As many other countries have started producing sesame and interring to the world market, the competition is becoming tough. A presenter from Trade, Industry and Market Development Bureau said exporting row sesame is not helping the country. Not adding value in the products is even considered as denying job opportunities for citisens. He suggested that involving in value addition activity is kind of mandatory.

    Way forward: discussants provide suggestions to improve the situation

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    Some of the participants of the workshop

    Integrated and concerted efforts should be made to improve the sesame business from the current position. SBN stakeholders said they will do their level best to search for solutions for the complex and multifaceted challenges. It was suggested to form two committees: one to deal with the challenges of production. GARC, BoA, ATA, Benefit-SBN, Gondar University, Land administration and other relevant bodies together should discuss with farmers (both small scale and large scale) to meet the challenges concerning production, productivity and quality of sesame and rotation crops. The other group should address the challenges of finance and marketing. Banks, microfinance institutions, RuSSACOS, trade and industry together with the support projects should work in close collaboration and play a significant role in supporting the sesame business. Both committees need to work in close collaboration with the zone administration.

    Specifically, strengthening the sesame task force; organising seasonal platforms; strengthening the capacities of unions and primary cooperatives; availing inputs; availing sufficient credit in time; availing proper chemicals for pest and disease protection; availing proper and multipurpose machineries; engaging in value addition activities; doing capacity development work in time etc. are suggestions made to improve the sesame sector.

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By Sesame Business Network, Gondar-Ethiopia