News / Africa

Ethiopian Economy Counting on Perks of Coffee Trade

Workers inspect coffee beans in Ethiopia
Workers inspect coffee beans in Ethiopia

Multimedia

Some of the world’s finest specialty coffees come from Africa, and now some African countries are looking at ways to make sure the perks of the lucrative coffee trade are not limited to coffee connoisseurs.

Morning at a coffee shop in Washington and the grind is on.

Only these customers are not buying just any coffee.  They are buying expensive, specialty coffee grown in Ethiopia.

"It doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste.  It’s a smoother tasting coffee," one customer said.


"We’ve had Ethiopian coffee on the menu since day one.  The day that we opened we knew that was a country of origin we really wanted to feature," said shop owner Ryan Jensen.

"This is original coffee from the birthplace of coffee," another costumer said.

Ahmed Mustafa has grown coffee for more than 30 years on the lush green hills of Ethiopia’s Agaro region. "We don’t have anything else other than coffee.  Coffee is the only source of income and the only source of life in this area," he said.

Mustafa uses his half hectare farm to support more than 10 children and grandchildren.  But he worries.  Last year’s harvest was good - the current crop is not.

Much of the land around Agaro is divided into these small coffee plantations. But it is not just the farmers who are dependent on coffee.  

Once the beans are picked, they are processed and bagged  in warehouses, then eventually, shipped out.

For years, this is where the Ethiopian coffee trade would become murky.

If, when and how much farmers were paid was always a question.  And buyers were never quite sure of the source of their bean, critical information in the world of high-end coffees.

"The key transformation that we’re looking for is to turn our farmers into business-minded, profit seeking commercial actors," said  Eleni Gabre-Madhin, who heads the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, and wants Ethiopia to be a dominant player in the global coffee market.

"We’re sitting on the potential of quadrupling the amount of coffee that we currently produce on this land," Gabre-Madhin said.

For the past two years, the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange has made that its goal, attempting to guarantee growers a fair price and give specialty coffee companies a consistent, quality product.

Only, it hasn’t exactly been a smooth transition.  Caught in the middle - companies like Keffa Coffee. It imports beans from Agaro to the Port of Baltimore in the United States.

Owner Samuel Demisse says he and his customers like what the Exchange is trying to do… Only, he says it is not working. "Price is definitely going down because we cannot trace the farm.  We cannot trace who produced it, that good coffee, so we are not paying what we used to pay," he said.

Demisse says that while the overall quality of the coffee has improved, too often beans from different coffee plantations are being mixed together - which is not what buyers want.

"Relationships are very important. We don't only buy coffee, we buy the history behind the coffee," he said.

And the problem has Keffa Coffee’s partners taking notice.

Alex Brown is with U.S.-based Counter Culture Coffee, which buys beans from all over the world to sell on the U.S. market.

"Ethiopian coffees are getting a little more complicated in purchasing because of the ECX - the formation of that," he said. "We’re trying to learn.  We’re trying to adapt.  We’re trying to really kind of have the same direct relationships that we like to have, through that system."

Yet for all the concerns, the problems do not seem to be trickling down to the coffee shops themselves.  

"We have a story to tell and our customers are always looking for a special story," Jensen said.

A story about beans from Ethiopia some coffee lovers just can’t wait to drink up.


Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid