Ethiopia denies nationalising coffee sector

ethio_coffeeADDIS ABABA (AFP) — The world’s sixth largest coffee producer Ethiopia said Tuesday it did not intend to nationalise the coffee sector after revoking licences of six exporters for hoarding the beans.

Communications Minister Bereket Simon said the government will now market the product after the move last month which saw the closure of the exporters’ warehouses.

“There is no intent to nationalise this sector. No programme of nationalisation,” Bereket told a press conference, insisting the state would act a market regulator.

“The marketing is now done by the government… and whatever money is received will be given back to the owners of the coffee,” he added.

Coffee accounts for more than 60 percent of the Horn of Africa nation’s export revenues and provides income for more than five million Ethiopians.

“An unregulated market can bring chaos. The government is in a position to identify the proper size of its intervention (and) will not intervene in the disadvantage of the market,” Bereket said.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had warned the exporters against hoarding coffee, accusing them of speculation in the world markets.

In 2007-2008, the country exported 171,000 tonnes of arabica coffee, almost 15 percent of the world production, and earned more than 500 million dollars (380 million euros).