April 5, 2011 / 4:42 PM / in 9 years

Ethiopia exports up 48 pct in 8 months to March - PM

* Coffee exporter targets $3 bln for 2010/2011

* Meles sees growth for year at projected levels

By Barry Malone

ADDIS ABABA, April 5 (Reuters) - Ethiopia’s exports rose 48 percent in the eight months to March, its prime minister said, rallying after Africa’s biggest coffee exporter missed its revenue target in first-half 2010/11.

Though still one of the world’s poorest nations, Ethiopia has posted double-digit growth rates for six consecutive years, according to government figures, making it Africa’s fastest growing non-oil producer.

The country targets $939.5 million in coffee exports this year, nearly double the $528 million it earned during the 2009/2010 fiscal year.

Ethiopia devalued its birr currency ETB= by 16.7 percent in September last year to bolster competitiveness, the fourth such move since 2009.

Zenawi said last month that the devaluation had boosted exports in the past six months and helped narrow the country’s burgeoning trade gap, although analysts have expressed concern the devaluation may risk importing inflation.

Officials had set a goal of $1.29 billion in revenue for the first half of the financial year (July-Dec), but its earnings by the end of that period met 86 percent of that at $1.11 billion.

The country set a target of $3 billion in revenue this year after a resurgence of coffee sales and diversification into new commodities earned $2 billion in the previous fiscal year (July-June).

“Exports increased by 48 percent,” Meles Zenawi told parliament on Tuesday, in an eight-month performance update. “Agricultural output grew by 12.57 percent.”

He said the economy was expected to grow by 11.2 percent this year, in line with projections.

Meles told Reuters in November the economy would grow at between the 11 percent predicted by his finance ministry and 15 percent.

Authorities reject claims from the opposition and some foreign analysts that it inflates growth figures to attract investment. (Editing by Ruth Pitchford’ Ron Askew)

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