Ethiopia Coffee History
Widely believed to be the origin of the Coffea arabica plant, Ethiopia remains a powerhouse in the coffee world to this day.
Ethiopia is the world’s seventh largest coffee producer, and the top producer on the African continent. Residents of the country account for half of its consumption, and the other half is exported to major markets like the EU, North America, and East Asia. Production methods remain mostly unchanged, with most cultivation and drying done by hand.
The government’s role in Ethiopia’s coffee production is unique, with an established Coffee and Tea Authority that acts as a part of the federal government. It sets regulations that fix prices washing stations must pay to buy beans from farmers, requires extended licensing in the domestic market, and maintains the previous regime’s decision to turn all washing stations into farmers cooperatives. It also regulates trademarks on regional names, including Harar, Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Limu.
Many cooperative and fair trade organizations exist today. One such organization is the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU,) an agricultural cooperative federation. It was established in 1999 with 34 cooperatives and $90,000 in capital. Today, it represents over 100,000 cooperatives and its exports have exceeded 7,000 metric tons, with sales approaching $40 million USD per year. It represents growers, processors, and exporters in the Oromia Region, located in southern and western Ethiopia. The union chooses to cut out middlemen and instead sorts, roasts, and exports its own coffee directly. They exclusively grow arabica coffee, and produce both organic and conventionally grown beans. 70 percent of the union’s gross profits are returned to its cooperatives. Its goals are as follows: improve farmer’s income by exporting their coffee; maintain the quality of coffee production; improve and maintain the sustainability of the coffee industry; improve the quality and productibility of Ethiopian coffee; regulate and stabilize local markets; provide farmers and clients with reliable service. This union has had a unique and positive impact on Ethiopia’s coffee production.
The Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (SCFCU) was founded in 2001 to represent coffee producing cooperatives located throughout the Sidama Zone of Southern Ethiopia. As of 2013, the SCFCU has grown to represent 47 cooperatives and 80,000 farmers making the SCFCU the second largest coffee producing cooperative union in Ethiopia. These cooperatives are located in the Sidama zone, at altitudes of 1,800 meters and above.