July 27, 2011 / 4:48 PM / 9 years ago

Ethiopia coffee exports hit record high

* Earned $841.6 mln in 2010/2011

* Commodity exchange helps regulate transparent trading, prevent hoarding

* Global commodity prices rises push production levels

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA, July 27 (Reuters) - Ethiopia earned a record $841.6 million from the export of nearly 200,000 tonnes of coffee in 2010/2011, trade data showed on Wednesday, thanks to lower output from traditional giants Colombia and Brazil and higher demand from India and China.

Africa’s biggest coffee producer intends to boost its agricultural output by 2015, raising coffee to 700,000 tonnes from 300,000 tonnes, under a five-year economic development plan launched last year.

High global commodity prices and the introduction in 2008 of a commodity exchange market, which promoted transparent trading instead of a murky auction system, helped lift coffee production to 196,118 tonnes in the 2010/2011 fiscal year, exporters said.

Trade data from the Ethiopian Coffee Exporters Association said the revenue figure represented a 59 percent rise compared to revenue earned in 2009/2010 and 124 percent from 2008/2009.

“The price has doubled over the year and farmers have reaped their fruit. Everone was encouraged to bring coffee to the local market,” said Hailu Gebrehiwot, an exporter and former head of the Ethiopian Coffee Exporters Association.

Prices for Ethiopia’s specialty Sidamo beans reached 1,500 Ethiopian birr ($88) for 17-kilograms in 2010/2011, up from 600 birr last year, Hailu added.

The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange, which trades coffee, maize, sesame and white pea beans through an open outcry system, has said it was looking to introduce future and forward trading in a country where hoarding is common among traders wary of price volatility.

Coffee traders in Ethiopia have repeatedly held on to their stocks, reluctant to sell through the new exchange saying prices were too low, sparking authorities to warn of seizures.

The government seized 17,000 tonnes of the crop in 2009 and revoked the licences of six exporters it accused of hoarding their stocks and waiting for prices to rise.

“With the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), the flow of coffee trading is streamlined - it means there’s less contraband business going on,” Hailu told Reuters.

Ethiopia prides itself as the birthplace of coffee. Some 15 million smallholder farmers grow the crop, mostly in the forested highlands in the huge country’s west and southwest.

The Horn of Africa nation projects it will earn $3 billion in export revenue for 2010/11 (July-June) after a resurgence of coffee sales and diversification into new commodities earned $2 billion in the previous year. ($1 = 17.044 Ethiopian Birrs) (Editing by Yara Bayoumy)

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