LEKU, Ethiopia/LONDON, Jan 14 (Reuters) – In the verdant southern highlands of Ethiopia, coffee farmer Gafeto Gardo is thinking about calling time on an industry that has sustained families for generations.
Over the past year, the amount Gafeto gets for a kilogram of coffee beans has fallen a third to 8 birr, or just 29 cents, reducing his income from a cappuccino sold in the West for $3 to $4 to under a cent.
“We are now losing hope. We are not reaping as much as we should and I am worried this will have a huge impact,” said Gafeto, flanked by labourers laying coffee cherries on jute mats in the rolling hills of Ethiopia’s Shebedino district. “Coffee is our life here.”
Unlike producers of commodities such as oil and natural gas, coffee farmers have long suffered from being at the wrong end of the value chain – receiving only a small fraction of the retail price of their crop.
Now, a slump in global coffee prices to their lowest in nearly 13 years in September is raising questions about whether it’s worth growing beans at all in some of the traditional coffee heartlands of Central America, Colombia and Ethiopia.