Africa's Top Coffee Producer May Triple Output in Five Years

(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia, Africa’s biggest coffee producer, is introducing production and marketing reforms that could as much as triple its output in five years.

The country is replacing old trees and cutting existing ones to allow new stems to sprout as aging trees become less productive. That could help boost output to between 1.2 million tons and 1.8 million tons by 2024, up from an estimated 600,000 tons in the recent harvest, the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority said.

Old trees account for about 60 percent of the 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of trees in production, while another 1.5 million hectares aren’t yet yielding beans, according to the authority. New trees in the country, where smallholders account for almost all output, take about three to four years to start producing.

Africa's Top Coffee Producer May Triple Output in Five Years

The government, non-governmental organizations and research centers are helping to implement the changes, Adugna Debela Bote, director general of the authority, said Thursday in an interview in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Marketing reforms are helping producers skip some stages of the supply chain, Bote said. That will help increase income for farmers, who currently receive about 60 percent of the price of coffee, he said.

“Under the new reforms, farmers can directly export,” he said. “We are creating awareness and this will be materialized this production year.”

Ethiopia exports the bulk of its beans to Europe and the U.S., and is trying to tap new markets in Asia, especially China, South Korea and Japan, Bote said. China has the potential to take half of Ethiopia’s shipments, he said.

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