Africa’s largest producer and the birthplace of Arabica coffee, Ethiopia has in recent years embarked on a new chapter in its unmatched 1000-year-old plus coffee history. A country that for years was between the five poorest in the world and home to endemic poverty, political instability and slow economic growth, the Ethiopian coffee industry has now started to recover and evidence supporting reports of increasing production has started to emerge. At the same time, the obvious results of an improved economy and higher average household incomes are leading to a boom in domestic consumption thanks to new purchasing power in the hands of the local population. This is good for both quality and trade, as the industry has become an increasingly important focus for everybody involved not just in coffee but to the overall development strategies of the government.
NOV 2013 (SpillingTheBeans)–SpillingTheBeans visited Ethiopia earlier this year to catch up on the last developments, and is truly impressed by the efforts undertaken at the private and official level. Based on what we have seen, not just in official government documents as far as socio-economic development strategies for the country, but based on work actually carried out on the ground and in the field, it is realistic to believe that Ethiopia could return to become one of the world’s four or five largest coffee producers in the coming years.
During the 1990s the annual coffee production in Ethiopia rarely surpassed 3 million bags and exports would even more rarely surpass 1.5 million bags as the Ethiopians are fond of drinking their own coffee. At the turn of Millennium in the 1999-2000 crop cycle Ethiopia hit 3.5 million bags for the first time, and production has been climbing gradually ever since; to 4 million bags in 2001-02, to 5.2 million bags in 2004-05 and to 5.9 million bags in 2007-08 before reaching the all-time record of 7.5 million bags in the 2010-11 crop cycle.
According to estimates from the Ethiopian Coffee Growers Association, Ethiopia’s current production capacity based on the land actually cultivated with coffee in production stands at a maximum 7.5 million bags, but falls short of the government target for Ethiopia to produce 9.5 million bags in the 2011-12 crop cycle.
“The government is targeting the exchange earnings very aggressively and their target for coffee is very ambitious. I think the 9.5 million bag figure is probably too high but now the government is starting to understand the importance of coffee here and this is good for Ethiopia’s coffee industry,” said Alemseged Assefa, General Manager of the Ethiopian Coffee Exporters Association.
With vast areas of undeveloped agricultural land still available for farming Kaffa province is leading the production boom in Ethiopia. While some renovation efforts are also reported out of the equally famous Ethiopian coffee regions of Sidamo, Harrar and Yirgacheffe the much higher population density in these areas have limited new developments in coffee at a significant scale. And local authorities in Kaffa plan to keep up the momentum.
For the full copy of my special report on Ethiopia, please see the July edition of the Global Coffee Review, available for free via iPad at
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