Japan says willing to resume Ethiopia coffee imports

September 5th, 2009 | by addis portal |

By Tsegaye Taddesse

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Japan is willing to resume importing large quantities of Ethiopian coffee as long as the authorities in Addis Ababa guarantee quality and safety of the beans, the Asian country’s envoy said.

Japan stopped Ethiopian coffee imports in 2006/07 after beans were found to contain harmful chemicals, Ambassador Kuniche Komano told Reuters. However, the country’s coffee remains popular with consumers in his country, he said.

Japan bought over 29,000 tonnes of coffee worth $84 million in the 2006/07 period.

“Japanese coffee importers are willing to resume buying vast quantities of Ethiopian coffee as long as they receive guarantees from authorities in Addis Ababa that the beans being exported meet Japan’s quarantine criteria,” Komano said.

“There is a big interest in Japan to buy coffee from Ethiopia, but the beans must be of top quality and free from all sorts of chemicals and contamination.”

Importers are also frustrated over delays at a laboratory in Addis Ababa that provides coffee samples destined for export to Japan, Komano added.

Tarekgen Tsigie, head of public relations in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, admitted that Japanese buyers had not been receiving samples in good time.

“This was due to some technical problems which have been overcome and I assure Japanese buyers that samples will be sent in the immediate future,” he said.

Tarekgen said the controversial beans became contaminated because they had been packed in sacks that had been in containers that had shipped fertilizers.

“Ethiopian farmers growing coffee use composite and as a result, Ethiopian coffee is certified as organic by internationally accredited certifiers,” he said.

A delegation from the All Japanese Coffee Association (AJCA) visited Ethiopia last month to resolve the issue. The group visited major producing regions and took coffee samples for analysis in Japan.

Ethiopia is Africa’s biggest coffee producer. Annual production is estimated at 330,000 tonnes, but this year overall output is forecast to drop by 14.7 percent because of bad weather.

It exported 170,888 tonnes worth $525.2 million in 2007/08.

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