The Japanese giant coffee buyer and roaster Ueshima Coffee Company (UCC), partnering with the Ethiopian coffee exporting firm Metad Agricultural Development Plc, the owner of Kabu Coffee, is to introduce its worldwide popular coffee quality contest in Ethiopia, the first of its kind in Africa.
In a ceremony held at the Japan Embassy on Monday August 24, 2015, the context was officially launched in the presence of Fikru Amenu, coffee development director from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Japanese Ambassador to Ethiopia, Kazuhiro Suzuki.
The quality contest that will be held in Sidama Zone, will have the participation of 24,000 producers from across the country, according to Tetsuya Seki, director for Supply Chain Management Department from UCC.
Metad Ethiopia is responsible for coordinating coffee farmers organised under various cooperatives.
The aim of the contest scheduled to be held from January to mid-March 2016, is creating awareness on the importance of quality in determining the price of the coffee through capacity building schemes in the process; and increasing the revenue of the farmers.
Seki said that the winning lots one through six will have the chance of selling their coffee in premium value ranging from 10pc to 30pc.
The Ethiopian Coffee Quality Control & Marketing Proclamation allows for farmers to export their coffee from the farm, after the quality has been graded. However, Fikru says that, the smallholder farmers, who do not have receipts to issue, cannot make that sale. Their coffee will be sold through their cooperatives. There also needs to be competing buyers to give better prices to the farmers.
“The Arabica coffee demand is increasing significantly around the globe,” Keiichiro Ichikawa, second secretary at the Embassy of Japan told Fortune.
The UCC coffee quality contest has taken place in different coutries including Brazil in 2001, then Jamaica, Hawaii, China and Vietnam.
“Improving the recognition in consuming countries through this contest, had a significant impact on improving price and quality of coffee,” said Ichikawa.
By holding this first contest in Africa, Ethiopia, “we aim to reinvigorate the Ethio-Japan coffee trade relations,” said Seki.
“We bet that African Arabica coffee is the most important source of supply of Arabica coffee for UCC and especially Ethiopia, which has the biggest production and most important [source] among them,” said the Embassy’s Second Secretary.
Four Ethiopian experts will and three judges from Japan’s UCC will preside over the cupping contest.
Fikru says that the contest will be held after the company had a clear deal with the Ministry of Trade. But it was not confirmed that the company had been given approval to proceed from the Ministry of Trade.
The coffee that will be presented for the contest is grade II or washed coffee and grade IV, unwashed coffee.
Metad’s Aman said that the competition will be a good profile for the company.
Japan stands fourth out of 55 countries in Ethiopia’s coffee exports in the five years of the first GTP, 2009/10 to 2014/15, with 79,777tn of coffee exported to the Japanese market generating 300,052 dollars. In May 2008, Japan had halted importation of Ethiopian coffee after finding pesticide residue in the shipped coffee. This ban was lifted after two years with 1,500tn of exports exported within four months following the lifting of the ban.
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