When Rahel Moges, in her mid-40s, decided to open a company that imports and distributes injera- the most consumed Ethiopian flat bread- in 2008 in Washington, their mission was turning the traditional staple food into a fast growing international business.
Although many people advised her to advance her IT profession, Moges, who was a graduate of a Master’s of Science from George Washington University in Telecommunications & Networking, took a different path, which she never regretted.
Inspired by the big demand in North America, especially in the US, Moges, a daily consumer of injera herself, is among few companies that capitalized on the main product of Teff- a crop used to make injera. Injera has a spongy texture and is traded for between six to eight Birr depending the type and color.
No doubt, the fact that the crop is a national delicacy shot her to success in a short period of time. Indeed, injera is consumed by almost all Ethiopian households and impacts the lives of over 15 million farmers in Ethiopia. Teff accounts for more than half of the crops cultivated in Ethiopia, reaching as high as 50 million quintals in the last rainy season. It is this reality that opened a window of opportunity for Moges’s company to advance in the global market.
Realizing the nation’s potential of producing teff and the huge demand for injera, she established a branch in Ethiopia with a purpose of penetrating the domestic and international markets, including the US, Canada, Europe and Middle Eastern countries. This was welcomed by the government that was attempting to diversify the export sector, investing around three billion dollars over the past decade.
“We believe that teff is a product that has substantial potential in the future world market, and for further growth in the Ethiopian economy,” she said. “We hoped to create more jobs and practice fair trade in Ethiopia.
Everyone involved in the production and exporting line of injera, the farmers, bakeries (commonly known as gagaris), exporters, and airlines would benefit from this business as the production goes up.” With such conviction, her company currently employs 32 workers, of which 26 are women, while creating a trade link with over a hundred farmers (targeting 1,000) that cultivate Teff.
Her company became one of the largest exporters with an export value of over 10,000 injera a week to the United States, Europe, United Kingdom and the Middle East just a year after its establishment. Although the fact that there were few players in the industry gave her a competitive edge for her venture, it was short-lived. Other importers, who discovered this huge business potential cropped up. Yet, that does not seem to be a challenge for Moges.
Nonetheless, although many companies seemed to be thriving, there are a number of fronts on which her company is competing. “Quality is the strongest factor followed by price: all of our competitors sell their products at higher prices than EthioGreen given quality and originality.”
In fact, amidst the tense competition, Moges still considers widening her horizon. With a changing life style in urban areas, such as Addis, she plans to raise her domestic sales. Be that as it may, she has also a plan to develop a large manufacturing plant to better serve markets in Canada, Sweden, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. “This would not only allow us to increase significantly our production volumes, but it would also give us the opportunity to diversify our offer by adding the production of different teff–based products.”