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The weather in Ethiopia and a bug infestation in the Ethiopian coffee fields may deprive me of one of my greatest pleasures next year. According to reports from Ethiopia, Ethiopian coffee production is seriously down during this coffee harvest thanks to a series of weather mishaps in the high-producing coffee regions in the country.
The regions affected are Sidama and Gedeo, which produce about 60% of the country’s coffee exports. The regions produce the Sidama and Yirgacheffe coffee sold by Starbucks and other premier coffee roasters. A representative of the Ethiopian coffee development office noted that coffee production in both regions is expected to be less than half the coffee production of last year. According to Behranu Gezahegan, the region suffered both drought and excessive rain one after another.
The drought during the flowering season inhibited flowring, reducing the expected coffee output. The drought was followed by a heavy rainy season which brought on coffee berry disease and coffee wilt, further reducing the expected coffee production.
While I’m being a bit facetious in mourning the difficulty of getting my Yirgacheffe coffee, the problem is far more dire for those farmers and others in Ethiopia. For those of us here in the US, coffee is a luxury, even if it is a daily luxury. For those who grow the beans for our little obsession, it is a lifeblood. When coffee prices drop, when coffee crops fail, people die.
In early December, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance projected that coffee production in Sidana would fall by 53% and in Gedeo by 67%. The report went on to state that the combination of lowered production, falling coffee prices and rising food prices would result in rising rates of malnutritiion in those Ethiopian regions.
The news, however, is not all bad. As of last week, Ethiopia moved from a closed auction system for selling its coffee exports to an open commodities exchange. In the first week of trading, the price for Ethiopian washed coffee – the higher grade of coffee exported from the country – rose 9.6%. In addition, the amount of other exports rose to offset the losses from the coffee industry.
Still, if you’re a Yirgacheffe or Sidana fan, take a few moments to consider the growers when sipping your favorite beverage this holiday season – then take a few minutes more to make a contribution to a charity working in Ethiopia.