Ethiopia exports up by 21 pct despite coffee slump

Gold Bars from Ethiopian Gold Mines
Gold Bars from Ethiopian Gold Mines
Gold Bars from Ethiopian Gold Mines
Gold Bars from Ethiopian Gold Mines

ADDIS ABABA (By Aaron Maasho, Reuters) – A surge in gold, oil seeds and livestock exports lifted Ethiopia’s total export revenue by 21 percent in the six months to December versus the year-ago period, offsetting a slump in coffee earnings, trade data showed.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told parliament last month he expected the country’s economy to grow by more than 11 percent this fiscal year driven by a boost in agriculture production.

The Horn of Africa nation forecasts close to $4 billion in export revenue by the end of 2011/2012 after a diversification into new commodities earned around $2 billion per year in the previous two years.

Data obtained by Reuters on Monday showed export earnings hit $1.35 billion in the first half of this financial period, more than 68 percent of a six-month target of $1.96 billion.

Coffee earnings in Africa’s biggest producer — its main source of revenue — reached $314 million from the export of 57,179 tonnes, compared to $320 million previously.

However, this was a sharp drop due to adverse weather compared with the 95,102 tonnes shipped previously by Ethiopia, which prides itself as the birthplace of coffee where some 15 million smallholder farmers grow the crop.

“Production was low but high coffee prices helped tame the impact,” Haile Gebrehiwot, a coffee exporter and former chairman of the Ethiopian Coffee Exporters Association, told Reuters.

“Crops were very late in most parts of the country and it is hard to speculate about the amount for the coming six months.”

Gold exports overtook oil seeds as the second largest source of revenue for the second year running, with exports topping $258.8 million, up from $179 million.

Ethiopia is part of the so-called Arabian-Nubian Shield, which stretches from Saudi Arabia and Yemen to Sudan and Egypt, and is home to rich gold and base metal deposits, though much of the seam is mined unofficially by small-scale prospectors.

Exports of oil seeds reached $143.9 million from $102 million previously. The country is the world’s fourth-largest sesame exporter after China, India and Myanmar.