Carmine cochineal: fortune wasted in northern Ethiopia Tesfay Belay


  • Tesfay Belay


Cactus pear, Dactylopius coccus, useful insect, invasive pest, Africa.


Carmine cochineal, Dactylopius coccus Costa, was introduced to northern Ethiopia to add
considerable value to existing cactus pear vegetation that in places like the southern Tigray
was becoming an invasive plant. It became an investment opportunity where Foodsafe, a
Chilean company was involved. Company was granted 300 ha at the cactus pear infested
plains of southern Tigray. Foodsafe was also expected to expand cochineal production
through an outgrower scheme. It created employment opportunity for the locals and started
exporting dried cochineal to Mexico and Germany bringing in foreign currency. As cactus
pear grows in communal lands, conflict of interest arose and it polarised the community. The
company was forcibly closed and it was a tragedy that a one time commercial insect became
a full-fledged invasive insect pest. Attempts to contain the insect with mechanical and
chemical control were not successful. So far more than 16,000 ha of cactus pear land was
infested with carmine cochineal. 13,000 ton of dried cochineal could have been harvested in
a single year, generated USD $52 million, and part of that money could have been used for
its management.



09-09-2015 — Updated on 20-06-2020



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