Agriculture is the backbone of the Ethiopian economy, contributing 43% of the gross domestic product, given that 85% of export income and employing over 86% of the population. Ethiopia has highly-diversified agro-ecological environments which are suitable for the production of numerous varieties of fruit and vegetables (Melaku, 2004).
A group of crops known as vegetables consists of more than 200 plant species all over the world as sited by Haile, 2014. Various types of vegetable crops are grown in Ethiopia under rain-fed and/or irrigation systems (Alemayehu et al., 2010).The major economically important vegetables include hot and sweet peppers (Capsicum spp.), Ethiopian mustard/kale (Brassica carinata), onion (Allium cepa), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), chili (C. chinense), carrot (Daucus carota), garlic (A. sativum) and cabbage (B. oleracea var. capitata). According to Melaku (2004), with regard to horticultural production, 46% of the vegetable producing area is planted with potato followed by pepper and sweet potato. Vegetables are a complex group of a wide variety of different types of plants. Some species grow from year to year; others grow with in one or two years. They have diverse forms of propagation, by seeds or vegetative parts. They may be herbaceous, vinyl, shrubby, or tree in growth habit. This vegetable is an edible usually a succulent plant or a portion of it is eaten as supplementary food cooked or raw form (AVRDC, 1990).
Vegetable production is an important economic activity in Ethiopia. The production system ranges from home gardening, smallholder farming to commercial farms owned both by public and private enterprises Agricultural Transformation Agency ( ATA, 2014) According to the Ethiopian Investment Agency (2012), green beans (Phaseolus spp.) and peas (Pisum sativum), okra (Abelmoschus spp.), asparagus (Asparagus officinalis), cauliflower (B. oleracea var. botrytis), broccoli (B. oleracea var. italica), celery (Apium graveolens L.), eggplant (S. melongena) and cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) have also recently emerged as important export vegetables.
Evidently, Ethiopia has favorable climate and edaphic conditions for the production of tropical, sub-tropical and temperate vegetables in the lowlands, midlands, and highlands, respectively (EHDA, 2011). The warm season vegetables such as tomato, onion, capsicum and snap beans are produced in hot semi-arid areas both under rainfed and irrigation (particularly in the Rift Valley), while the highland offers favorable growing conditions for the production of cool season vegetables like kale, cabbage, garlic, shallot, carrot, beetroot (Aklilu, 1997; EHDA, 2011; Hussen and Muluneh, 2013).
Vegetable production is practiced both under rainfed and irrigation systems. The irrigated vegetable production system is increasing because of increasing commercial farms and development of small scale irrigation schemes (Baredo, 2012). Ethiopia has a comparative advantage in a number of horticultural commodities due to its favorable climate, proximity to European and Middle Eastern markets and availability of land, water for irrigation and labour (Ethiopian Investment Agency (2012). Hence, the Ethiopian Rural Development Strategy focuses on market-led agricultural development and the government pledges to support market integration and agro-enterprise development (DCG, 2007).
The county has favorable conditions for the production of a number of vegetable crops. The wide range of altitude, ranging from below sea level to over 3000m above sea level, gives it a wide range of agro ecological diversity ranging from humid tropics to alpine climates, where most types of vegetable crops can be successfully grown. Further, the abundant labor, vast land and water resources give her an opportunity and facilitation for the production of different types of vegetable crops (Fekadu and Dandena, 2006).
Vegetable production is an important economic activity in Ethiopia, ranging from smallholder farming to large scale commercial farms (Zelleke and Gebremariam, 1991). While smallholders usually use the largest part of their vegetable produce for home consumption and sell the surplus, the commercial state and private farms produce solely for market. According to CSA (2012), about 2,710 million tons of vegetables, root and tubers were produced on 541,000 ha, creating means of livelihood for more than 1 million households in 2010/2011. The cultivated crop production area increased by 26%, while the production volume increased by 73% between 2011 and 2013 (CSA, 2013).
The World Health Organization Estimate that low fruit and Vegetable intake contributes to approximately 2.7 million deaths a year from chronic disease and causes about 31% of ischaemic heart diseases and 11% of strokes worldwide. Almost 80% of the population lives in the country side while the rest situated in urban area. An estimated five million people suffer from lack of vitamins and essential minerals, of which 80% are children (Fekadu and Dandena, 2006). Vegetable crops are valuable sources of vitamins, minerals and proteins especially to a country like Ethiopia where the people experience malnutrition due to heavy dependence on cereals such as tef (Eragrostistef), maize (Zeamais), wheat and other cereals.
In recent years, awareness of the nutritional and health benefits of vegetables in Ethiopia has been increasing due to public health advocacy on the role of vegetables in human nutrition and health through its provision of antioxidants such as vitamin A, C and E that are important in neutralizing free radicals (oxidants) known to cause cancer, cataracts, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes (Demissie et al., 2009; Tabor And Yesuf, 2012) and partly because of the rising prices of livestock products such as meat, milk and eggs, which traditionally forms a major component of most Ethiopian diets. As such the increasing consumption of vegetables helps to fight hidden hunger, malnutrition. Several studies in the past and present have established that vitamin A deficiency is a major public health problem in Ethiopia, as elsewhere in developing countries. the fact that micronutrient status in general and vitamin A status in particular is strongly linked to vegetables availability and consumption in developing countries. It is estimated that over 80% of vitamin A in developing countries is supplied by fruits and vegetables (Tsegaye et al., 2009). These endeavors obviously require sound and up-to-date information on the extent of market availabilities, own production/cultivation and consumption of fruits and vegetables. Literature search revealed that such information is unavailable or scanty in Ethiopia.
Vegetable crops are also important for food security in times of drought, famine and food shortage. They provide a source of income for the farmers or producers; create employment opportunity and contribution to the national economy as export commodities. The current investment policy in the country are favorable for expansion and diversification of vegetable crops both in the production and marketing sectors for export and foreign exchange earnings (Fekadu and Dandena,2006). Vegetables serve as suitable crops for farming systems diversification and land intensification, particularly with recent increases in the establishment of small and medium scale irrigation schemes in the country (Bezabih and Hadera 2007).
Vegetables are also used as a source of raw material for the local processing industry. Processed products such as tomato paste, tomato juice, and oleoresin and ground spice of hot pepper/chili (Capsicumspp.) are produced for exports making a significant contribution to the national economy (Aklilu, 2000; Baredo, 2013). Vegetables constitute also source of cash income for the households and an opportunity to increase smallholder farmers’ participation in the market (Alemayehu et al., 2010). The increasing development of the horticulture industry and the intensive production practices of horticultural crops are creating employment opportunity, especially for women and youth ((Ethiopian Investment Agency, 2012).
The expansion of irrigation agriculture in different parts of the country has enabled smallholders to produce vegetable even in dry season. Through irrigation, farmer’s per capita production as well as area under vegetable coverage has been increasing (MoA, 2014). These conditions enable smallholders to have better surplus for market. Like most of agricultural products, vegetable production exhibits seasonality in supply. This creates excess supply of vegetable to markets within limited time frames which leads to decline of prices. Furthermore, due to absence of sufficient local markets and efficient marketing system, farmers are obliged to sell their outputs at lower prices (Agricultural Transformation Agency, 2014)
In 2013 for example, Ethiopia exported 220,213 tons of vegetables and generated United States Dollar 438 million (Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority, 2013). Commercial production of horticultural crops, including vegetables, has also been increasing in recent years because of expansion of state farms (e.g., Ethiopian Horticulture Development Corporation) and increasing private investment in the sector by national and international entrepreneurs (EHDA, 2011, 2012). Commercial vegetable production is concentrated in the Rift Valley areas of Ethiopia, primarily due to availability of irrigation facility, accessibility and closeness to agro-processing industries (Alemayehu et al., 2010). The Ethiopian Horticulture Development Corporation has been carrying out production and marketing activities of horticultural crops since its establishment in 1980 (Agonafir, 1991). The Ethiopian Fruit- and Vegetables Marketing Enterprise (ETFRUIT) is a parastatal trading organization established in April 1980 under the Horticulture Development Corporation to deal with domestic and export trade of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and processed horticultural products.
Postharvest loss estimates in developing countries are alarming (20-50% of production) but efforts are lacking to establish the seriousness of the problem and the interventions needed (Antonio L. Acedo, Jr. 2010). postharvest losses of vegetables are clearly visible in Ethiopia, fresh vegetables are highly perishable and subject to rapid quality deterioration after harvest due to incorrect stage of produce maturity, water loss, unfavorable climatic condition, physical damage, contamination by pathogens and insect pests, improper handling and poor storage conditions. Other factors also contribute to postharvest loss, such as lack of capable human resources, lack of knowledge about technical and scientific technologies, inefficient marketing systems, poor/lack of transportation infrastructures etc. Enormous area under seasonal rain-fed agriculture in the highland part of the country up to 30% of vegetable harvests in Ethiopia is reported to be lost due to poor post-harvest handling (Tsegaye et al., 2009)
ü To Review the production, marketing status and consumption patterns of vegetables in Ethiopia.
To understand the major constraints and opportunities within vegetable production in general