- New technology and fair trade idealism has assured top bids for quality coffee from cooperative producers in Ethiopia. Average prices achieved in the first-ever internet auction of its kind for African coffees were far more than double the world market price. The auction generated more than US$ 187,800 for Ethiopian cooperative farmers.
In the first internet auction of its kind for African coffees, coffee companies from around the world this week bid top prices for winning lots from Ethiopian cooperative coffee producers. The US-based ECAFE Foundation, who organised the auction, sourced the coffee from 150 cooperatives in eight regions across the country to reflect the diversity and quality of coffee grown in Ethiopia.
The auction had been "the culmination of ECAFE Foundation's 2-year project that worked with Ethiopian coffee producers to identify high quality coffees and conduct regional and national cupping competitions to promote them," according to a statement from the foundation.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, a US company, topped the charts with an auction-high bid of US$ 6.50/pound for Wotona Bultuma Cooperative's Fair Trade Certified and Organic certified beans. ECAFE's international jury of cuppers characterised the coffee as having a "velvety body with balanced fruit notes, pleasant acidity and lingering berry and honey notes."
As a reflection of a growing trend in coffee auctions, the second highest bid at US$ 5.50 was placed by a cooperative US bidding group. These small roasters were eager to support the small farmers of Ethiopia through the relatively new concept of cooperative bidding, which allows small roasters to bid competitively against large coffee companies, according to ECAFE.
In total, the internet auction had generated more than US$ 187,800 for the farmers, at an average price of US$ 3.22 per pound. This compares very well to the world market price of US$ 1.30 per pound, according to ECAFE Chief Financial Officer Colleen Crosby.
- All proceeds will be distributed to the cooperatives, the US foundation guaranteed in its statement. Mr Crosby estimates that roughly a US$ 75,000 premium over the market was paid for these distinctive beans, "proving that bidders recognised the exemplary quality of coffee produced by Ethiopia's cooperatives."
The foundation characterised the groundbreaking use of internet technology in favour of farming cooperatives as a great success. "ECAFE is proud to sponsor this groundbreaking effort to bring the best Ethiopian coffees to the industry. Finally, farmers at the coop level who produce these exemplary coffees will receive the prices and the recognition they deserve," said ECAFE President Willem Boot.
This first ECAFE auction was realised with the support of ACDI/VOCA, the Coffee Quality Institute, Coffee Corps, the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the Ethiopian Coffee & Tea Authorities and the Ethiopian Coffee Unions. ECAFE plans to continue on the success with more auctions to follow.
African coffee producers during the last years have fallen victim to lowering coffee prices on the world market, which have contributed to growing poverty in coffee producing regions. At the same time, however, Western coffee drinkers have become more eager to pay elevated prices for specialised coffee products of a higher quality than the typical mass produced products.
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