By Jason McLure
Aug. 31 (Bloomberg) — Coffee exports from Ethiopia, Africa’s largest producer of the beans, are expected to rebound to about 171,000 metric tons this year after shipments fell to their lowest level in six years last year, an official with the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange said.
“Early assessments indicate a very good potential for a bumper harvest of coffee,” said Eleni Gabre-Madhin, chief executive officer of the Addis Ababa-based exchange, in an interview on Aug. 29. “We are expecting at least 2007/2008 tonnage.”
Shipments fell from 170,888 tons in 2007/2008 to 133,993 last year after a drought cut production and Japanese importers largely stopped buying Ethiopian coffee after finding high levels of pesticide residues in shipments.
Better rains this year in the main coffee-growing areas will lead to more production during the country’s October to December harvest. Ethiopian coffee trees will also produce more due to their cyclical nature, in which harvests peak every second year, she said.
Prices for premium Arabica beans, though heavily dependent on the world price of coffee, may be higher this year because of a new grading system in Ethiopia introduced in conjunction with the Specialty Coffee Association of America, she said. The system will bring Ethiopia’s grading methods in line with those used by the SCAA.
“Hopefully it will encourage farmers to produce more of these top quality grades,” she said.
The exchange will also begin providing a new direct-buying service for coffee roasters that seek specialty coffee from specific farmers, she said.
U.S.-based specialty coffee roasters complained last year that Ethiopia’s move to trading beans on a commodity exchange made it difficult to trace coffee to specific growers, a desirable marketing feature for specialty roasters.
Ethiopia, which claims to be the home of the coffee tree, has hundreds of native varieties of coffee.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jason McLure in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg on firstname.lastname@example.org.