‘We Would Not Survive Without Coffee’: How Rules Made in Europe Put Ethiopian Farmers at Risk

Ethiopia’s coffee industry, which is the country’s biggest export and the main source of foreign currency, is facing challenges due to new European legislation – the EU Regulation on Deforestation-free Products (EUDR). The EUDR bans the sale of coffee, rubber, cocoa, and other products if companies cannot prove that they did not come from deforested land. However, Ethiopia’s coffee industry claims the new rules are unfair since almost all Ethiopia’s coffee is grown by poor farmers who own small plots of land and lack the expertise to gather the complex data needed to show compliance.

Ethiopia’s coffee farming relies on maintaining forests and the shade they provide, which protects coffee plants from the heat. The beans are grown by smallholders who on average cultivate less than two hectares of land. Abebe Megnecto, manager of Kafa’s coffee union, which represents 13,676 local farmers, believes that their way of growing coffee is far less damaging than those from other big producers, such as Brazil.

However, orders are already slowing from European buyers, who face fines of up to 4% of their turnover if they bring non-compliant products into the EU. Buyers are hesitating to buy Ethiopian coffee because they are not confident they can demonstrate compliance. They are thinking of diversifying to other markets, but that will take years. It is not simple.

Felix Ahlers, founder of Solino, a German company that imports 200 tonnes of roasted Ethiopian beans a year, says its business model could become unsustainable. At the moment, they don’t have a solution, but it’s not clear how they can keep importing.

In conclusion, Ethiopia’s coffee industry faces significant challenges due to new European legislation, including the EUDR, which requires millions of smallholders to provide paperwork to prove their land is not deforested. This has led to a decline in Ethiopia’s coffee exports and a potential shift towards a more sustainable coffee industry.

Farmers in Kafa, Ethiopia, are hesitant to comply with EUDR regulations due to concerns about the cost of compliance and potential uncompetitiveness of Ethiopia’s coffee industry. The country’s heavy reliance on smallholders and fragmented supply chains make it difficult to map these farms individually for EUDR. However, the move away from voluntary eco-friendly schemes to compulsory regulations is still positive, as products consumed by the EU cause about 10% of global deforestation.

Ethiopia’s coffee farming relies on maintaining forests, as trees provide shade and protect coffee plants from heat. To ensure sufficient light for coffee plants, about 70% of the trees need to be cut down. The European Union (EU) has offered support for smallholders through extensive consultations before the introduction of EUDR, but Ethiopia is asking for more time. Cocoa producers in Ghana and Ivory Coast, as well as palm-oil-producing Indonesia, also want a delay.

The coffee industry in Kafa is vital for building schools, health centers, and roads, and without the European market, these resources would be lost. Many farmers in Kafa support anti-deforestation rules, but they believe that everyone should be made aware of them so they can comply. The EUDR resembles a “bit of a sledgehammer,” but the move away from voluntary eco-friendly schemes to compulsory regulations is still positive.

Read More @ The Guardian

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