Hello there, happy Monday So we all know that coffee runs through the veins of Ethiopians as much as blood. But what does the business aspect of coffee production look like? My guest blogger, Adiam Asfaha, explains a bit on today’s post. He moved back to Ethiopia in December 2011 after graduating from college in the U.S. Enjoy and feel free to comment or add any knowledge on the subject.
Exports taking precedence over culture
By Adiam Asfaha
IMF loans require that the borrower show an increase in exports. The Ethiopian government has recently implemented a policy in order to increase its exports. This policy limits the consumption of certain commodities so that certain produce would be available for export instead of the national market.
One the commodities that fell victim to this new policy is coffee. Coffee was discovered in the northeast region of Ethiopia in the 15th century and has been consumed since. It’s a part of Ethiopian culture as much as injera and wot. The government has implemented this policy in order to increase exports. A similar policy has been implemented in Kenya.
I visited a town called Dila, located two hours drive from Awassa. Dila is in the center of one of the main coffee producing regions in Ethiopia. I ran into NGO employees that support coffee farmers. The name of the NGO is Technoserve (funded by no other than America’s favorite coffee franchise; Starbucks). As much I would like to state that “here’s another corporation taking advantage of African resources,” TechnoServe is actually doing some good. They consult farmers and provide collateral if they don’t have the money to get their business off the ground. Coffee grown in the region and the rest of Ethiopia is not available for the local market. It is illegal to transport more than two kilos of coffee from Dila to Addis Ababa or anywhere in Ethiopia. So what kind of coffee do Ethiopians drink? The coffee that reaches Addis and the rest of Ethiopia is the discarded coffee that doesn’t meet the requirement for export.
Unlike Kenya, coffee in Ethiopia is consumed almost daily. In Ethiopian tradition, coffee is prepared and served in a ceremonial manner. It’s customary to drink coffee amongs friends and family. Coffee is more than a beverage; it’s part of everyday life. The Ethiopian government has prioritized the wants of foreign markets over the needs of its people. The intentions of the new policy may have been good but the consequences have been insensitive to the culture.