The Harvest

The Ethiopian coffee harvest is impacted by the three main seasons. Bega (October- January) is the long dry season. It is when coffee harvesting and processing takes place. In the Belg (February-May) the first rains will arrive. This is the main period for coffee flowering early fruit development. In the Krempt (June-September) the main rains will arrive. Heavy rainstorms will come in daily from the east. This is the period for the later part of coffee fruit development. The rains will normally come to an abrupt finish towards the end of September. This is when the coffee fruit ripening occurs. By November the harvest is in full flow and washing stations are busy across Ethiopia.

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Cherry to bean

In 2021/22 Ethiopia exported over 300,000MT of green coffee. As local consumption is very high in the country, production could be around 600,000MT. However, as the industry is dominated by small holder farmers, productivity per hectare is extremely low. Pruning and stumping practices are not widely done amongst the farmers. The authorities, in partnership with local and international NGOs, have made a big effort in recent years to rectify this. A number of training and incentive programs have been successful in radically improving production in a relatively short space of time. It is likely we will see an increase in Ethiopia’s overall production in the years to come.

Ethiopian coffee is almost entirely handpicked. The fresh cherry is then moved to a processing site or a buying center. Often farmers will dry some of their coffee themselves, hoping to receive a better price after the harvest has been completed. Around 75% of Ethiopian coffee is natural with varying degrees of complexity. The washed method was only introduced in the 1950s but has quickly developed in the past few decades.

vertical intergration

The Ethiopian coffee supply chain has gone through many regulatory changes over the last few decades. The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) was established in 2008. Until recently this has been the main way for exporters to source coffee. The ECX was successful in bringing together a fragmented system and in creating an easy outlet for suppliers to safely sell their coffee. However, over the last few years, there have been increased demands for exporters to be able to have more control over the supply chain. The authorities began by allowing exporters and suppliers to bypass the ECX for the highest quality coffee, as due to the lack of traceability Ethiopia was not able to sell their coffee at the highest possible prices. In 2021 this was expanded to all grades. Coffee volumes at the ECX have been extremely small since the change in regulation.