Ethiopia oil seed exports earn more than coffee

June 19, 2009

NougBy Tsegaye Tadesse
ADDIS ABABA, June 19 (Reuters) – Oil seed exports overtook coffee as Ethiopia’s biggest foreign exchange earner in the 11 months to May, the agriculture ministry said on Friday.

Africa’s biggest coffee producer is also the world’s fourth largest exporter of sesame seeds but has for decades relied on its premium grade coffee for hard currency inflows.

It received $326 million from the sale of 261,216 tonnes oil seeds, mainly sesame, and another $321 million for 114,442 tonnes of coffee over July-May.

“Ethiopia has enjoyed a bumper harvest in oil seeds during the current season,” said Tarekegn Tsege, public relations head at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“The country produced 353,373 tonnes of oil seeds of which 215,000 tonnes was sesame and the remaining 138,373 tonnes were niger seeds, haricot beans, pulses and chickpeas.”

He told Reuters oil seed production increased by 59.5 percent compared with the previous year and revenues were greater by 46.8 percent.

The Horn of Africa country prides itself as the birthplace of coffee and is the continent’s biggest producer and consumer of the bean.

A drought in the south has cut output this year and global downturn compounded the problem by slashing demand.

Overall production this year is forecast to drop by 14.7 percent from an annual average of 330,000 tonnes and export earnings are seen dropping 30-40 percent.

The country earned some $525 million from exporting 170,888 tonnes of mostly high quality arabica in 2007/08 (June-July).

Ethiopia exported its oil seeds to 27 countries including China, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, while Germany, the United States and Saudi Arabia were the top buyers of coffee, Tarekegn added.
He dismissed complaints by some U.S. importers and roasters that the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) marketing system was blocking them from buying beans of their choice.
“The complaint is not based on the existing reality. At ECX warehouses, beans from different regions are stocked based on their origin and quality to allow buyers to trade in coffee of their preference”, he said. (Editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura)