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Two new malt barley varieties with the potential to triple average yield in Ethiopia released

Gosaye - barley farmer- Ethiopia
Barley farmer in Ethiopia. Photo Credit: ICARDA.

May 26, 2016, Addis Ababa. Two new malt barley varieties with the potential to triple average yield in Ethiopia have been released by the Holetta Agricultural Research Center as a result of decades of research collaboration with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). The two varieties, HB1963 and HB1964, can yield up to 6 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) as opposed to the average yield of 2 t/ha in Ethiopia. The varieties also offer excellent malting quality, making them attractive buys for the malting and brewery industry, thus allowing smallholders to use the new malt barley as a cash crop and generate income from it.

In Ethiopia, the gap between malt barley production and demand is high. In late 2015, brewing factories, such as the Assela Malt factory had to scale down their production due to the chronic shortages of malt barley in the market.

“With the release of new malt barley varieties and robust scaling out of the technologies, there is an opportunity not only to meet local demand but also to export in the long term,” said Dr. Zewdie Bishaw of ICARDA, who is leading the USAID-supported project on scaling out of malt barley technologies in Ethiopia.

Asella malting factory
Asella malting factory in Ethiopia. Photo Credit: ICARDA.

“Public-private partnership involving research, seed suppliers, malt factories, breweries and farmers could be a game changer for the livelihoods of smallholder farmers,” said Dr. Berhane Lakew, senior barley breeder at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR).  

In 2015, malt barley supply in Ethiopia met only 35% of the demand, with the remaining 65% (63,526 tonnes of malt) imported at a cost of $38 million. While malt barley production covers only about 150,000 ha, barley (for food and feed uses) is widely grown in the Ethiopian Highlands. In 2014-2015, some 4.1 million smallholder farmers cultivated barley, producing 1,953,385 tonnes. The favorable agroecology for barley in the Highlands represents a huge opportunity to increase domestic malt barley production and bridge the supply and demand gap.

The brand new linkage to malt factories and breweries is a boon for the smallholder farmers, particularly in the high altitudes, where climate change is threatening livelihoods and barley is one of the few crops that continue to yield well, being resilient to climate change. 

The newly released malt barley varieties will be promoted for wider adoption among the farming communities under the ongoing scaling out project supported by USAID and implemented by ICARDA.

Watch short video on linking barley farmers to emerging markets of malted beverages.

For more information contact: Rajita Majumdar at

The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), a member of the CGIAR Consortium and the lead center in the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems, is the global agricultural research organization working with countries in the world’s dry and marginal areas to deliver sustainable systems solutions that increase productivity, improve rural nutrition, and strengthen national food security.

About EIAR
The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) is responsible for the running of federal research centers and is charged with the responsibility for providing the overall coordination of agricultural research countrywide, and advising government on agricultural research policy formulation.

This is a repost of a  press release from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).