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Ethiopia field pea (Pisum sativum) is one of the country’s earliest leguminous plants. The crop originated from the Mediterranean region situated in the Middle East around 1976 before spreading to other parts of the world. In areas where farmers grow it on a consistent basis, the crop has helped boost the ability of the soil due to its unique capability of releasing key atmospheric components. It also serves as a break-up plant for pests and is often intercropped with Faba bean (Viciafabae) along the highlands where it is predominant.
Locals use it to prepare a traditional dish called Shiro Wet- a stew commonly eaten with local bread named Injera. It doubles up as a cash crop and a food crop which offers food security to locals and particularly the low-income families due to the country’s unpredictable and prolonged drought phases. Besides, the farmers do not have to dig deep into their pockets to access foods selling at higher prices to attain dietary balance as it is rich in proteins and has amino acids containing a high nutritional value. Ethiopia is estimated to have produced 347,000 metric tons of the crop last year.
It has variations that include:
Burkitu and Tegegnech that thrive well under irrigation, Adet-1, Sefinesh, Gume, Wolmera, Hassabe, and local check.
• Dried, unshelled
• Dried but shelled
The field pea varies from the indeterminate to determinate flowering varieties with the former flowering periods usually prolonged and tend to take longer to also mature, 90-100 days. However, determinate varieties take a shorter period to mature, and their flowering phase is definite.
Generally, very high altitudes affect the flowering process.
Indeterminate suitability to varying conditions –dry or arid has made it possible for the seed to be grown in any part of Ethiopia while farmers growing the determinate one ensure they conduct production only in the wet regions of the country.
But basically, field pea which has a shallow root system thrives in either wet cool and semiarid weathers with the seed sprouting taking place at a soil temperature of 40 F. Growers avoid planting the seed in a waterlogged soil where the chances of the seeds survival are zero.
For the harvesting process to be signaled farmers ensure most peapods are suntanned at the bottom, contain a yellow color in the middle and a slightly yellow-green color on the top.
Harvesting begins in the morning or late in the afternoon because the moisture is usually high which in turn allows the shells to be just a little hardened thus minimizing their chances of shattering. Minimal shattering reduces the loss of the peas.
The season for cutting varies from October-November altitudes between and December-January when altitudes stand between 1800-2500 m 2000—2800 m.
After harvesting the crop is left lying on the fields to expose it to radiation from the sun and ensure there is free circulation of air for six weeks.
The dried stalks are wrapped with smooth leather and placed on a threshing ground where the donkeys’ trample over them until the grains are separated from the shells. Wooden shovels and folks are used to hurl the grains upwards against the wind to separate them from the chaff.
For the large-scale farming where the produce is in bulk, artificial drying mechanisms are used. Famers ensure temperatures do not exceed 115 degrees Celsius to avoid damaging the seed coats and maintain the seeds viability of germinating in case it is used for planting in the upcoming planting season.
During storage moisture levels are maintained at 14%.
The grain is stored in jute bags which are sealed in airtight condition to keep the seed away from contamination.
Before transporting the field peas to a designated warehouse where they await shipping they are labeled and stored in packages that maintain low temperatures of 0° Celsius. Extra caution is applied whereby dried chili peppers are sprayed on the bags to keep away insects and maintain a moisture-free environment.
The growing demand of the Ethiopia field peas has seen farmers react by extending production to satisfy the local and export markets.
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