Ethiopia’s coffee harvest is to hit a record high next season, helping the East Africa region to a record crop, and spurring expectations of the area’s strongest exports in 20 years.
Ethiopia – the fifth-ranked coffee producer, where the crop is believed to have originated – will harvest 6.51m bags of all-arabica beans in 2015-16, the US Department of Agriculture bureau in Addis Ababa said.
While short of hopes of Ethiopia’s government, which had hoped that output would hit 7.7m bags by 2014-15 as farmers improve on “quite low” yields of 0.7-0.8 tonnes per hectare, the harvest at this level would extend a long-term run of gentle increase.
Not since 2002-03 has the country seen a decline in output.
The bureau said: “The quality of the coffee crop might deteriorate somewhat due to the delayed Belg rains,” which occur around March and April, “and the timing/length of the Meher rains” which stretch from May to September.
“However, at this stage, it is too early to tell what that overall impact on quality might be.”
Exports to rise
Shipments will reach a record 3.52m bags, a rise of 20m bags on exports expected for 2014-15.
And the improvement will support an increase in exports from East Africa as a whole of 7.6% to 9.40m bags, the second highest on records going back to 1960-61, factoring in estimates from other USDA bureau reports too.
It would be a figure beaten only by the 9.54m bags in 1995-96.
Shipments declined since thanks largely to structural declines in Kenyan and Ugandan production, although the latter in particular is attempting to revive output through a government-backed support program to growers.
That USDA regional staff see East African coffee production hitting an all-time high of 12.46m bags in 2015-16 is largely down to expectations for a recovery in Uganda’s output, besides record crops in Ethiopia and Tanzania.
East Africa is responsible for the vast majority of African coffee output, with Ivory Coast, with output typically of some 1.6m bags, the one large producing country elsewhere in the continent.