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Ethiopia common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) describe the many types of bean varieties in the Horn of Africa country. Similar to other parts of the world, the bean ranks as the primary source of protein in Ethiopia. The majority of the farmers are smallholders who produce 95 percent of the crop. The two leading varieties in most farms are white and red mottled beans. The first one has a harvesting capacity of 1.4 tons per hectare while the other accounts for 1.59 tons per hectare.  The legume came to Ethiopia from trade with Yemen in the 1400s A.D. The country only boosted its local production in the 1960s and 1970s. By 1970, there were over fifty cultivars available to the local farmers for cultivation.

Total Production Area

Ethiopia has an extensive landmass under the legume: around 357300 hectares are under this particular crop. The country’s production margins usually hit around 540,238 tons yearly (2017 figures). The south-west in the Rift Valley is the leading production center. Other areas with equally high output margins include the Eastern and Southern zones. Each region with its agro-climatic difference can grow at least one of the over 50 varieties. A research station in Hawassa, in the south, drives research onto sustainable cultivars.

Exported in Shelled Form

Common beans from Ethiopia reach the market in shelled form. This is when the pods are dry. Threshing and winnowing help to remove the dry pods and expose the clean seeds for packing.

The Main Varieties and Their Sources

Ethiopia common beans go into classification by color. There are red beans, white beans, green beans, navy beans, and speckled beans, each with its sub-divisions. Here is a look at the cultivars and their sources:

Red Beans: also known as ‘red mottled bean.’ Its cultivation is mainly in Oromia, Amhara and Southern Nations, Nationalities & People’s Republics (SNNPR) region.  A popular subdivision is the red haricot bean.

White Beans: this is the most productive bean type by hectare with a capacity for 1.5 tons/ha. It is cream, pure white or mottled in appearance. It grows mainly in Oromia, Amhara, and SNNPR.

Red and White Beans: a cross of the purely white and red varieties, this bean type grows in the same areas as its breeding sources. It is perhaps the most common among Ethiopia common beans.

Speckled Beans: a couple of colors characterizes home to the Gofa and Sidamo zones in the country’s south, this type. The intonation ranges from grey to white, red, navy and other shades.

Small White Bean/Pea bean: some of the smallest among Ethiopia common beans are the pea beans. They are mostly white in color and minute in size. Their area of distribution is mostly Hararghe, a highland in the east of the country.

Haricot Bean:  though most people call it ‘Red haricot,’ the haricot bean can be many colors. It thrives in the low-lying parts of the Great Rift Valley to the South-west. The primary colors include red, white and mottled.

Kidney Bean: this is one of the most popular bean exports from Ethiopia. It has a kidney shape, and it is mostly red. It comes from all bean-growing regions of the country.

Other Beans: the country also produces the Yellow Bean whose name derives from its color.

The Two Bean Seasons

Ethiopia beans are available most of the year as they follow the diverse climatic conditions of the country. There are at least two seasons that follow rain patterns:

  • Planting: Belg season-this is the first season that runs from February to May. Second season: the season runs from July to October.
  • Harvesting: Post-Belg season-the harvest follows on the heels of the first rain season from June to July. The second season: this runs from October to November.

Growing Conditions

Ethiopia common beans thrive well in both the highlands and the lowlands. The altitude can range from 1000 to 1200 meters above sea level. The optimal temperature variant is warm at 17.5 to 27 degrees Celsius.

Harvesting & Packing Guide

The harvesting of Ethiopia common beans takes place after roughly 55 days from the planting date. The conventional method for harvesting is by hand, though mechanical means are also minimally in use. The farmhands cut the whole plant at the base or even uproot it. Sometimes only the stalk bearing the pods is cut during the harvest. The mature bean pods will have dried and wilted before the harvesting of the beans in the shell can begin. Manual threshing involves rolling a pin over two tarpaulins bearing the beanstalks. It separates the seeds from the stalks. Mechanical threshing involves a harvester that not only removes the seeds from the dry pods but winnows them off any specks.

Ethiopia beans reach the market in jute bags of about 50 kilograms. However, there are flexible packages in nylon sacks and 6.8-kilocartons as alternative packing options. The largest boxes, especially plastic crates can weigh as much as 14 kilos. All the produce comes with the designate labels of the source, the weight range and the date of packing.

Storage advice

Common beans can stay unspoiled for over 12 months by proper storage under cool, dry conditions. The optimal cold room temperatures are 7 degrees Celsius but no more than 10 degrees Celsius.


Whether speckled, pure colored, big-sized or diminutive, Ethiopia common beans come in over 50 local varieties. This gives a wide choice for any importer with an eye for protein-rich legumes that grow under the watch of farmers’ co-operatives, especially in Hawassa, in the south. Because of the extensive research in this bean-growing zone, there are always new varieties coming up to serve both local consumption and export needs. It is therefore not strange that over 1.9 percent of all agricultural land in the country is under the common bean.

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