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In the past decade, Ethiopia has been able to reinvent its strawberries making them some of the most highly sought after berries in the world.
Overview & History
Ethiopia strawberry is unique in its way. The country’s unrivaled ability to avail strawberries on a consistent basis annually internally and externally is the reason the country stands out when it comes to the production of the fruit.
Despite strawberries finding their way to the horn of Africa as early as the 17th century, it only began exporting the fruits in 2007.
Ethiopia has three major export destinations for her berries.
One of them is the gulf area which is a target for the April-November, the United Kingdom for the December-February produce while the berries harvested between January-April are directed to South Africa
The total export value for 2017 stood at $ 3.2 million. This was inclusive of all fresh and processed forms of export.
The first species of strawberries are native to North America and Chile. They would later find their way to France as a crossbreed of the two species as an improved strawberry plant in 1712 before spreading to other parts of the world including Ethiopia.
Ethiopia Strawberry plants are characterized by stems measuring 3-6 inches long, at the very end, three hairy leaves are oval shaped and tooth-like on the edges. The fruits, when developed, have a juicy texture, are lush, red in color, sweet and attractive to the eye.
Strawberry nutrition and health benefits
Strawberries have a low level of fats with statistics backing this estimating that a cup of strawberries has 55 calories only. This fruits are also rich in Vitamin C which averages at 17 percent.
The antioxidants in the berries help protect the human body from free radical.
Its nutritional values have a wide range of health benefits that include helping the body regulate sugar content, improve heart condition, supporting the immune system and management of weight.
Fresh or Chilled Exports
Vast volumes of Ethiopia strawberries sold to the international markets are availed their raw form. The remaining produce is availed as often processed into other products such as jam, juice and other baked products.
Growing conditions and areas of production
Ethiopia climate conditions are perfect for the growth of the berries. The main growing areas of the strawberries are Oromia situated to the south-east of the country. The country is sunny for more extended periods of the day, is located at 1 800 meters above sea level and has temperatures averaging between 22- 28 degrees centigrade. These conditions are adept for the growth of the berries which explains the reason the lion’s share of the national production comes from these regions.
Strawberries are also grown on raised beds to control weed and promote water drainage.
Growers do mulching around the plants to help the soil retain. The most prevalent agriculture practice used to improve soil fertility is the use of compost manure. It is an integral and mandatory exercise since malnourished soils affect yields.
Months of Production
Ethiopia strawberries do not take long to mature with 75-90 days required for the berries to be ready for harvest. The fruits are available throughout the year on a consistent basis.
Harvesting, Grading and Packing Method
Farmhands pick the fruits every day of the week in the early morning hours. The first action taken during the first thirty minutes after harvesting is placing the fruits in cooling chains. They are left in pre-cool conditions for 1-2.
Part of this produce is availed for local consumption with high-end stores and supermarkets.
The second phase entails transporting the berries meant for export with immediacy to warehouses situated at the Addis Ababa airport within 24 hours.
The berries are placed carefully in small cases weighing 250 grams which are then packed in small-sized pallets.
The grading provides guidance during packing.
Grading has these categories with the first entailing Grade one fruits which are nine in every punnet or pack. Grade 2 strawberries range from 15-25 per punnet while those containing third-grade fruits carry between 28-32 strawberries.
The fruits are pre-cooled in conditions slightly above -5 degrees Celsius which helps shield the fruits from shrinking and losing their water content.
Delivery boxes weigh 250 grams, and the packaging is adjustable depending on the specifications provided by buyers. The shipment cartons have clear labels indicating vital details such as grade and size.
The prevalent use of traditional farming methods such as compost manure to boost yields in place of modern ones including chemical sprays is enough justification of the claim pitting Ethiopia on the same level with other high quality produced strawberries around the world.
Almost every farmer of this fruit has a Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certificate to show their end products have adhered to all requirements.
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