Ethiopia export earnings rise 17 pct yr/yr in 8 months to Feb
* Earnings hit $1.87 bln, up from $1.6 bln
* Gold, oil seeds rise, coffee revenue down 7.9 pct
ADDIS ABABA, March 27 (Reuters) - Ethiopia's export earnings rose 16.6 percent in the eight months to February compared with the same period a year earlier, helped by rising revenue from gold and oilseed sales, while earnings from coffee dropped, ministry of trade data showed on Tuesday.
Revenue grew to $1.87 billion in the first eight months of the fiscal year, up from $1.6 billion in the same period last year. The revenue figure makes up 69 percent of a high government target of $2.7 billion set for the period.
The country expects gross domestic product growth of 11 percent for 2011/2012, thanks to rising agricultural output, the seventh consecutive fiscal year of growth.
Officials say a drive to diversify into new commodities and the devaluation of the birr currency by 16.7 in 2010 has bolstered competitiveness.
Ethiopia's gold exports, which have overtaken oil seeds as the second-largest source of revenue for the second year running, surged to $370 million, up from $253 million.
Ethiopia is part of what geologists call the Arabian-Nubian Shield, a region stretching from Saudi Arabia and Yemen to Sudan and Egypt, and home to rich gold and base metal deposits, though much of the seam is mined unofficially by small-scale prospectors.
The Horn of Africa nation is also the world's fourth-largest sesame exporter after China, India and Myanmar. Its oil seeds exports hit $269 million in the past eight months, up from $192 million in the same period previously.
Coffee earnings in the continent's biggest producer continued to slide, however, with experts blaming adverse weather in some parts of the country.
Revenue from sales of coffee hit $411 million on exports of 75,113 tonnes, down from $447 million and 122,575 tonnes in the same period last year. Exports of livestock grew by 57 percent to $149 million. (Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Duncan Miriri)
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