As global demand for teff, Ethiopia’s gluten-free indigenous staple crop grows, officials and businesses are looking to tap the global market by modernizing the ancient crop, letting its healthy taste spread worldwide.
Teff is a main crop in the East African country Ethiopia that yields a mixed red-and-white seed the size of a poppy. According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, teff accounts for about two-thirds of the daily protein intake in the Ethiopian diet.
“Teff is as old as Ethiopia,” said Esayas Lema, deputy head of the Agricultural Extension Program of Ethiopian’s Agriculture Ministry. “It was first discovered by Ethiopian farmers, who have been cultivating it for more than 3,000 years,” he said. “And like coffee, teff is ours, it is Ethiopia’s gift to the world.”
Teff is farmed and consumed in nearby Eritrea and South Africa as well as the U.S., Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, and India.
According to the FAO, teff is low on the glycemic index, making it a healthy food for people with type 2 diabetes. Aweke added that over the last decade teff has been recognized as one of the world’s ancient dietary staples, joining the likes of quinoa, farro, spelt, and millet.
“Compared to quinoa, and other ancient grains, teff contains more calcium, iron and vitamin C,” he added. Teshome Seleshi, a brand expert with the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Rights Office, told Anadolu Agency that the global appetite for teff has been growing over the past decade. “Many companies have responded to the demand by cultivating and selling teff flour to health food shops,” he said. A Dutch firm, Health and Performance Food International (HPFI), which in 2005 signed an agreement with Ethiopia to promote teff’s use in Western cuisine, partially contributed to the crop’s popularity, according to Seleshi.