Coffee exporters push for a national dialogue to address tribulations

Ethiopian Coffee Exporters’ Association (ECEA) announced that national dialogue between the private sector and the government is vital to identify the difficulties facing the sector.

The Association, which was established 40 years ago by coffee exporters, has disclosed that it has made several recommendations to the government in regards to improvements in marketing, transportation, and other relevant issues affecting the sector.
“We have pointed out to the government the various problems facing the sector and have made recommendations, but we don’t have all the answers,” said Emebet Tafesse, Vice President of ECEA and owner and General Manager of Zibad General Export and Import, at a press conference held on Tuesday, October 29 2013, on the premises of the Association HQ.
Coffee experts and exporters usually don’t feel free to make suggestions or criticize the way things are done, but Emebet said that it is time to disclose the challenges and problems if improvements in the sector are to be made.
According to experts and ECEA, the problems are numerous and the Association plans to hold several panel discussions with relevant government offices even though the government, in collaboration with the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), are working together to resolve the problems.   
The Association has also proposed to organize a national dialogue about coffee and is drafting a document which will govern the code of conduct of its members.
According to the Vice President, the main problem lies in tracing the origin of their ongoing problems because ECX controls coffee trading. She said buyers are complaining that they aren’t getting the kind of quality coffee they are used to. “To resolve our problems, we have to find out first why we are facing these tribulations,” Emebet said.
Among the Association’s recommendations is the formation of a Coffee Board that will control and regulate the coffee sector and is the major source of hard currency for the country.
Capital learnt that the government has accepted the suggestion and is now working to establish the Board after it carries out extensive research. Previously, the coffee sector used to be governed by a Coffee Board, an independent government organization.
ECEA has organized the second international Ethiopian coffee conference, under the theme ‘Building sustainable future for Coffee’, which will be held next week on November 4 and 5 at Sheraton Addis.
A year ago, the Association had organized similar event, which was the first of its kind. According to officials of ECEA, the past year’s event had been quite successful in promoting Ethiopian coffee, which is one of the premium coffees in the world, and had created vital market links. The past event had attracted over 30 buyers and agents, representatives of ICO, the international coffee trading body, and fine coffee associations.
The coming event will also include panel discussions and other proceedings that will contribute to and sustain sector development. The discussion will mainly focus on the challenges faced by sector actors. Quality, market, logistics and researches on coffee will be the main issues addressed by research papers that will be presented at the event, mostly by experts hail from abroad. 
50 agents and buyers, continental and international organizations, including the International Coffee Organization (ICO), and domestic stakeholders (exporters, suppliers, cooperative unions and financial institutions) are all expected to be part of the event.
Ethiopia is the largest coffee producer in Africa and the fifth largest in the world, while it is ranked 9th in terms of exports globally. The country is also a major consumer of the stuff. Annually, about 500,000 tons of coffee is harvested and about 200,000 tons is exported.
During the past year, the price of coffee declined by 30 percent, due to the global economic crisis, which affected major exporting countries. Fortunately, last year’s export volume increased and has kept the country’s revenue from coffee exports only slightly lower than the previous year’s earnings. In the 2012/13 fiscal year the country earned USD 745 million from coffee exports, which was USD 832 million in the 2011/12 fiscal year.
USD 1.2 billion in earnings is expected this year from a target export volume of 280,000 tons of coffee. But this year’s forecast or trend analysis indicates that the international market will not show any significant change upwards in terms of coffee price, while in fact a small decrease is expected during the current fiscal year, according to experts.
These experts indicated that the major coffee producers, Brazil and Vietnam, are expected to harvest huge amounts of coffee this season, but the economic status of major importers is not expected to improve any time soon.
The decrease in international coffee prices has greatly affected coffee suppliers in rural areas, and the reverberations from last year’s prices has contributed to the increase in illegal coffee trading within the country and its border areas