Challenges of the Ethiopian coffee sector highlighted at international conference


The Ethiopian coffee sector faces lingering challenges, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) stated at the 2nd International Ethiopian Coffee Conference held under the theme “Building a sustainable coffee future”.

According to a presentation by the ministry, the challenges faced include the absence of a strong coffee seed supply system, very low quality control, lack of clear vision and direction to support the sector and its actors and inadequate attention to provision of input credit for productivity and quality enhancement, among others.
Organized by the Ethiopian Coffee Exporters Association (ECEA) in collaboration with USAID, the conference that was officially opened by President Mulatu Teshome, brought together ECEA members, officials of the Ministry of Trade and Agriculture, Ethiopian Commodity Exchange and the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange Authority, public and private financial institutions, and international coffee buyers.
The purpose of the conference was to increase the export of Ethiopian coffee to the international market through the exchanging of information and experiences among stakeholders in the coffee commodity value chain and address the challenges and difficulties facing the coffee sector, provide the opportunity for the private sector to interact with key government policy makers involved in the coffee sector as well as interact with international buyers.
Several presentations regarding the world market outlook situation, Ethiopian coffee productivity, quality and standards, international trends and opportunities were presented by local and international stakeholders in the coffee sector.
Other challenges mentioned in different presentations include: population pressure and land degradation, no use of improved technology, limited access to inputs such as credit, seeds, fertilizer, irrigation and others as well as the increasing costs to produce and process high quality coffee.
Besides the challenges, there were several opportunities highlighted as well. “There are several opportunities for the coffee sector in Ethiopia: genetic diversity and favorable environment, farmer’s ancestral knowledge and known coffee brands,” stated Taye Kufa, Senior Coffee Researcher at Jimma Coffee Research Center, in his presentation.
The quality of produced coffee was the major topic of discussion as it was a challenge not only for Ethiopia but for all coffee producing countries. The fair trade system was also critically discussed in some presentations and it was stated that the system has not really benefited farmers as it was hoped it would.
Some suggestions such as up to date technology, finance and buyer networks were mentioned possible ways to improve Ethiopian coffee exports. It was stated that a strong partnership needs to be created between stakeholders in the coffee sector as well as linking coffee growers and processors to viable input credit providers