In the past century, maize has gained increasing importance as a major food source within Africa. As one of the most important grains in the world, maize serves as basic raw material for the production of starch, oil and protein, alcoholic beverages, and food sweeteners.

Product Varieties: The varieties of maize in use in Ethiopia fall under the Dent maize and Flint Maize categories. The improved hybrid maize varieties are: BH 660, BH 140, BH 540, BH 530, PHB 3253, 30 F 19 (ajeb), 30 H 83 (tabor), HB 30 G 97 (shendi), BH 540, BH QPM 542, and BH 670. Besides, the improved open planted maize varieties are: Kuleni, A 511, Rare 1 (EV 1), Alemaya composite, UCB, Guto, Abo Bako, Gibe composite 1, and Gamella composite (gusaw).

Agro-Ecological Conditions: Generally, maize is cold intolerant and depends heavily on soil moistures as its root system is shallow. The planting period for maize in Ethiopia varies slightly from area to area with the normal planting period lying between late March and late April and early May to June in the eastern/southeastern and north/southwestern parts of Ethiopia, respectively. Maize harvest shows similar variation: early November to late December in the east/southeastern regions and late December to mid-January in the north/southwest regions of Ethiopia. Though maize is able to grow under different agro-ecological conditions, it requires an altitude of up to 2,400m above sea level with a rainfall between 800-1,500mm to yield higher production.

Domestic Production: In Ethiopia, maize is a leading cereal crop with main season production totaling 2.9 million tons in 2005/06 and accounting for 21.2% of major crops production (including oilseeds and pulses) in the same year. In the past year, maize production has, on average, accounted for 25.5% of crop production. The main season yield of maize, for the period 1998/99-2005-06, ranged from a low of 1.5 tons per hectare to a high of 2.1 tons per hectare, of which the average yield per hectare was 1.83 tons.

The lion’s share of maize production in country comes from three regions, namely, Oromia region (61%), Amhara (20%) and SNNPR (12%). Crop utilization survey data shows that, of the total national production of maize, 76.03% was utilized for household consumption, 10.22% for sale; while the balance was used for seed; wage in kind, animal feed and other.

Research result shows that excluding the volume of grain set aside for consumption, 28% of total grain production (including the oilseeds and pulses) is marketed, of which 16.3% is accounted for by maize, putting the marketable surplus of maize at 16.7%. Close to 95% of the marketed quantity comes from smallholders and the rest from commercial and state farms.

Domestic Trade structure/characteristics: In general, the commercial grain supplies come mainly from the production of small farmers, private commercial farmers, state farmers, and import and food aid. The market participants in the maize trade include producers (small holders and commercial farms), wholesalers, retailers, part-time farmer- traders, brokers, agents, assemblers, processors, cooperatives, EGTE, and consumers.

Global Scenario: In 2005/06, total national export of maize was 2,736 tons valued at about 450,000 USD or 3.9 million Birr. This value of export was destined to Sudan (67%) and Djibouti (23%) with an average unit value of 162.7 USD/mt. The world production of maize reached 724.6 million tons in 2004 with world export totaling 83 million tons /11.7 billion USD/ and world imports reaching 83 million tons /14.6 billion USD/.

Prices: The Addis Ababa wholesale prices of maize, during 2004-06, reveal an identifiable pattern of relatively low post-harvest January prices followed by rising prices