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Ethiopia shallots feature in the country’s list of significant revenue generating exports. The crop is sold in frozen, fresh or chilled form.
Shallot (Allium cep a var. aggregatum) is among the commonly used crops in Ethiopian households. The locals value it more than onions which serve a similar purpose in food preparation. They have a common belief that dishes particularly a local stew they call ‘wot’ prepared with shallot last longer than those cooked with onions.
It is a hard task to differentiate between an onion and a shallot due to their almost similar physical traits. However, there are those traits that stand out in a shallot, for instance, its leaves are green with a white tip at the top and are long and very thin. Its bulb’s outer covering varies from white, copper, reddish to gray. Its most distinctive trait is the milder and slight garlic flavor it contains.
Ethiopia export for onions and shallots is estimated to have been in the region of USD 2911million in 2017. Some of their biggest export markets included neighboring country Djibouti, Europe, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
The name shallot was derived from a Canaanite City in Greek. However, the crop is said to have been initially grown around areas in central and southwest of Asia.
It later found its way to the African continent and eventually to the country situated at the Horn of Africa.
Locals use the crop at their homes, and they sell the surplus to generate income. Although onions are equally popular shallots are the most prized between the two due to the lasting pungency they instill in dishes.
What are its other benefits?
Shallots constitute of nutritional values that range from manganese, potassium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin B6, fiber, protein and vitamin C. They assist the human body to fight type 2 diabetes, boost the heart health, and suppress cases of blood pressure and help in the circulation of blood.
Fresh or Chilled Exports
Ethiopia shallots are exported in chilled, fresh or frozen forms. Freezing helps extend the crops shelf life and maintain all the nutrients it contains in its fresh raw form.
Seasonality & Growth Requirements
Ethiopia shallot thrives in sub-humid weather conditions that have combined warm and wet climatic patterns. Shallots are mainly sourced from the eastern parts of the country that neighbor Somalia and Eritrea with the yield obtained from there estimated to weigh 16.5 tons for every hectare. The plant also does well in the Western Rift Valley where Vethalam is the most extensively grown variety. Farmers use irrigation when there is minimal rainfall. They also apply the black plastic mulch that helps retain water and control weeds. It is a technique that significantly boosts yields.
Harvesting, Chilling & Packing
Ethiopia shallot takes 3-4 months to mature and be ready for harvest. Harvesting is done in late summer.
Harvesters wait for the green leaves of the crop to dry, fall off and exemplify a brown color. The bulbs usually become visible as they appear slightly above the soil and their outer cover has a papery texture. Bulbs are left out in the scorching sun for two to three days to dry.
Several measures are undertaken before the packing begins. Shallots are very sensitive thus are easily contaminated if not handled properly. Therefore, packaging must meet phytosanitary guidelines. Before harvesting experts clean the warehouses and packing boxes properly to minimize the chances of contamination of the bulbs.
The best shallots are graded and packed in two clear meshed bags with weights ranging from 25-50 pounds each. The bulbs are stored in the warehouses under conditions not exceeding 4° Celsius with the humidity standing between 60%-70%. It is essential the bulbs do not depreciate in mass or firmness. These conditions extend the shelf life of the bulbs for an extra six months. Necessary information is displayed when shipping the cargo including country of origin and the packing date.
Ethiopia shallots are grown under the recommended guidelines.
Co-operatives educate farmers on all the required Global Good Agricultural (GAP) guideline to obtain chemical free bulbs in the long run and elevate the appeal of the bulbs to the international market.
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