March 17 - International demand for Ethiopia's staple cereal is growing in the west as its super food credentials are endorsed by celebrities. But as Hayley Platt reports the government is reluctant to allow teff exports in case it leads to price rises at home.
Ethiopians have been eating it for generations. Now Teff has been thrust into the spotlight by celebrity A-listers. The likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham are said to consider the cereal a super-food. It's gluten-free and scientist say it boosts vitality and reduces fat production. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. SOLOMON CHANIYALEW, RESEARCH SCIENTIST, DEBRE-ZEIT AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH CENTRE, SAYING: "It has many nutrients like minerals, calcium magnesium, iron. It also contains the mineral ash and is high in protein." Teff is grown by six million Ethiopian farmers. And the new interest could be an economic opportunity for one of the world's poorest countries. But the government's banned its export to try and protect the price locally. Bedru Shukra runs a Teff mill. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BEDRU SHUKRA, TEFF TRADER AND MILL OWNER, SAYING: "The demand for Teff is rising here. So, if there is extra demand from outside on top of its current local demand, I think the market will be out of control. The Majority of the consumers and local dealers will not be able to afford increased prices. They may not be able to afford to eat even once a day." The government is being urged to patent Teff in an attempt to make money out the diet fad. In the past developing countries have lost out to biopiracy - a term used when foreign companies plunder plants from poorer parts of the world. There's certainly money to be made. In London a kilo of Teff flour sells for around £7 - seven times the price of wheat flour. Many in Ethopia would like to see some of that, coming back to them.