The Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority (ECTA) announced that there are 5.4 million hectares of suitable land available for growing coffee. Currently coffee is cultivated in Oromia and SNNP regions but plans are in the works to expand coffee plantations throughout Ethiopia, according to a statement the Authority sent to Capital.
Birhanu Tsegaye, who leads the nation’s coffee, tea and spice development, said there are 5.4 million hectares of land usable for high level coffee cultivation and 17.7 hectares of land ripe for medium level coffee cultivation.
“In total the country has an additional 23.1 million hectares of high and medium level of land suitable for coffee,” he said.
In addition to Oromia and SNNP; Amhara, Gambella, Benishangul Gumuz and Tigrai are potential areas for growing coffee beans. He said that if this land is used, the government will be able to reach their coffee production goals. Currently there are about 2.52 million hectares of land covered by coffee plantations. From this, about 1.129 million hectares are being used for harvesting coffee. “The country can benefit from its natural gifts,” Birhanu said.
The Authority is working closely with stakeholders to increase coffee production. There are two other areas where some coffee is grown in addition to Oromia and SNNP, these are Benishangual and Gambella. However, soon coffee will be growing throughout Ethiopia if the government’s plans become a reality.
The Coffee Authority was re-established three years ago after previously being placed under the Ministry of Agriculture. During the last twenty years there has been much tinkering with coffee administration. The current government created an exclusive entity for coffee and tea and their recent policy has focused on improvements in agriculture, mainly cereals and other cash crops.
Until recently, several ministries, including the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture, managed Ethiopia’s coffee industry. Coffee cultivation was run under the Ministry of Agriculture, and the marketing was carried out by the Ministry of Trade.
Before being administered under the agriculture ministry, it was governed through the Coffee and Tea Authority. It developed coffee plant nurseries and distribution for farmers. It also engaged in developing selected seeds to boost coffee development.
The Coffee and Tea Authority was also responsible for monitoring the production and exportation of all types of coffee through an auction system. It was later replaced by the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, which commenced coffee trading in 2008.
The first body responsible for coffee was the National Coffee Board of Ethiopia (NCBE) which pioneered coffee certification when established in 1957. The NCBE’s aims were to control and coordinate coffee production, traders and exporters and to improve the quality of Ethiopian coffee.
Coffee experts supported the re-formation of an independent office for coffee to ensure the sector’s development. They said that the coffee industry was hindered by being attached to MoA.
“The coffee sector needs very close attention and the formation of the new entity will be advantageous for its development,” experts said.
Agrer Consortium’s, the US consultancy firm, recommended improving the sector by establishing an independent office at the ministerial level to focus more on coffee.
Even though the Ethiopian coffee bean is flavorful and has different varieties, it has not been able to fetch the proper premium on the international market.
Various studies indicate that Ethiopia is the primary center of origin and that the Arabica coffee plant is genetically diverse.
The labor-intensive tree crop also provides much employment in rural areas and is the means of livelihood for over 25 million people in Ethiopia. It also retains the major share of the GDP.
In the stated regions there are 181 woredas dedicated to coffee production. This harvest season 786,766 tons of coffee are expected to be collected. The Agrer Consortium study recommended that a meaningful and effective strategy involve increasing quantity, quality, sustainability, consistency of supply and the geographic identity of Arabica coffee. [Capital Ethiopia]