Page last updated at 10:23 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Ethiopia starts coffee exchange

Coffee beans
Ethiopia is Africa's largest coffee producer

Ethiopia, Africa's largest coffee producer, has started trading the crop on a national commodity exchange.

In a move aimed at both increasing quality and the amount farmers get paid for their beans, coffee is being traded on the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange.

Replacing the previous, more informal, system of sales through middlemen, farmers will now be able to get direct access to current market prices.

The exchange has set up a network of warehouses to collect the beans.

Dominant crop

The Ethiopian government, which is backing the move, hopes it will prevent fraud, such as traders passing off beans from a lesser growing area as being those from a higher quality region.

Although the largest growers and co-operatives will be able to continue to sell directly to the global coffee firms, everyone else will have to use the electronic exchange.

Set up earlier this year, the exchange already trades in maize, wheat, sesame seeds and haricot beans.

Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee cultivation and the crop continues to account for more than a third of its export earnings.

It earned $525m (354m) from coffee exports in the 2007-08 financial year.

However, Ethiopia still remains one of the world's poorest nations, and is ranked 170 out of 177 on the United Nation's Human Development Index.

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