The creation of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) in 2008 significantly limited farm-level traceability. In a noble effort to reduce nepotism and fraudulent marketing by bad actors in the chain, both of which directly hurt farmers’ chances in the market, the Exchange instituted a nationalized system of purely empirical quality analysis. This was achieved by anonymizing coffee deliveries to government-run sensory analysis hubs throughout the country, in which samples would be cupped and the entire lot would then be profiled by region and grade only, for internal auction to exporters. Where all of this backfired was in relationship markets: longtime microlot buyers, like Royal, could risk losing access to very established producer partnerships; and, enterprising coops, unable to show their coffees intimately to buyers, found it more difficult to find their coffees a consistent home for the highest value.
In response, Royal, with support from select cooperatives, led the formation of the Single Farmer Lots Program
, in order to break off single farmer lots from the larger cooperative blends sold through the ECX, taking custody of these precious coffees through a direct sale. The program is a unique micro-channel of almost unprecedented specificity in coffee supply from Ethiopia. Farmers with the drive and means to sell direct are supported by Royal, and, in turn, our most enthusiastic buyers of Ethiopia coffee have access to a portfolio of single-farm lots, un-diluted by the typical cooperative- and exporter-level consolidations. The Single Farmer Lots Program
represents a very sweet end to a chaotic recent chapter in Ethiopia’s coffee history, and we think it’s a model for what ought to be a generation of start-up relationship farming in Ethiopia’s world-famous southern zones.
Annual farm visits from Royal CEO Max Nicholas-Fulmer and regular communication with farmers through Haile Andualem
, Royal’s representative on the ground in Ethiopia, has been an essential component for ensuring that farmers and washing stations are following strict farm management and post-harvest protocols. The results have been increasing cup quality and higher returns for the individual producers that Royal has come to count on for great coffee year after year.
Returning to Royal with another amazing harvest, Addisu Kidane cultivated this single farmer lot on his 39-acre farm near the town of Halo Bariti located in the heart of the coveted Gedeo Zone—the narrow section of plateau dense with savvy farmers whose coffee is known as “Yirgacheffe”. Addisu has been cultivating coffee since he was a child helping his father, and took over operations of the family farm after his father passed away in 2002. With the help of the Single Farmer Lots Program
he has been able to sell his coffee as a micro-lot in recent years. Coffee is Addisu’s main source of income to support his wife and their 8 children (6 girls and 2 boys). Addisu takes his harvested cherries to the Halo Bariti cooperative, where he is a member, for processing. There, ripe cherries for this natural processed coffee are carefully hand sorted and floated to remove less dense coffee beans. Next the cherries are dried on raised beds for 15 to 20 days and turned regularly to avoid over-fermentation and mold. At Halo Bariti, raised beds are carefully constructed to ensure proper air circulation and temperature control, for optimal drying. Cherries are covered during the afternoons to prevent harsh drying in the intense sun. Once the cherries reach the necessary 11 percent moisture, they are transported to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, to be milled and prepared for export through the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (YCFCU), of which the Halo Bariti cooperative is a member.
Mr. Kidane envisions a future processing station, and personal dry mill, of his own on his land. We admire the ambition and are devoted to programs like this one that allow farmers like him to achieve maximum value for what they do.