Ethiopia is exporting more than 90% of its sesame production as a raw product. Value addition for exports is limited, but the GoE wants to see this changed in the coming years. Humera type sesame is preferred for tahini (especially in Israel), where it is used to make halva and hummus. These three products have their origins in the Middle East.
Tahini, halva and hummus have gained popularity in the USA and Western Europe in recent years and the products are being innovated on. New flavors are coming forward, which are not previously seen in Middle Eastern countries. These products, found in the higher price segment, have labeled their product with ‘Humera sesame’. End-consumers in Western nations find it more and more important to know where their food is coming from and this offers opportunities for Humera type sesame.
National markets for tahini, halva and hummus are relatively new and can be further explored. All three products are unknown by most Ethiopian consumers, but all of them have a potential to fit in Ethiopian diets. The diaspora and expatriate community can initially be targeted with potential spillover effects to the Ethiopian community.
The GoE is setting up industrial parks throughout the country for, amongst others, food processing. These industrial parks are expected to accommodate FDI and Ethiopian initiatives targeting export markets. Ethiopian entrepreneurs face challenges acquiring the machines necessary for their processing operations due to nationwide forex problems. This is one of the reasons why food processing for exports is better incentivized than food processing for local markets: foreign investors face less difficulties on this issue.
Key Ingredients for tahini, halva and hummus are sesame, sugar and chickpeas and all are produced in large quantities in the country. Their supply chains are quite different from one another. The ECX is influencing sesame supply, sugar supply is controlled by state-owned enterprise ESC and chickpea supply is rather fragmented. Organically certified sesame is being cultivated and marketed in Ethiopia but organic sugar and chickpea are much harder to find.
Key challenges identified for tahini, halva and hummus processing are adulteration along the value chain, limited Ethiopian knowledge of tahini processing, conducive environment for exports only, high raw material costs, and forex shortages. The key opportunities are an increased interest in new foods in Western markets; limited 100% pure Humera type tahini on the international market; organic tahini for the Western market; new product development with traditional tahini, halva or hummus as a basis for domestic markets.
It is recommended by this study to brand Ethiopian Humera sesame products. There is currently no guarantee that the existing Humera sesame products, are truly made of 100% Humera type sesame. This provides a great opportunity for Ethiopia-based processors (if they can guarantee this). It is recommended to increase international awareness on the high quality traits of 100% Humera type sesame products.
Secondly, it is recommended to create a more conducive environment for Ethiopian entrepreneurs to grow their sesame processing business. Expansion of local markets for THH can provide entrepreneurs with a testing ground for THH business propositions. Incentivizing (e.g. similar benefits as FDI for export markets) and supporting (e.g. domestic market promotion) those entrepreneurs to grow towards higher standards applicable in international markets, can motivate and take away start-up barriers for Ethiopian entrepreneurs wanting to engage in the THH processing business.