Gatta Farm – Exceptional coffees from Sidama Bensa

People

Gatta Farm is the place where Daye Bensa runs a dedicated specialty program. Daye Bensa’s Gatta Farm is at the heart of Shantawene Village, in Sidama Bensa, Ethiopia. It sits at an altitude of 2120 – 2210m in the midst of a natural forest. The site is surrounded by indigenous trees, which they say are older than 100 years, waterfalls, and rivers. One of the rivers separates Shantawene from Bombe and runs from the hills above Keramo. Gatta Farm has been named after a waterfall which crosses the farm. 

Gatta Farm was a natural forest before being discovered by the cofounder Mulugeta Dukamo while managing the construction of Gafisse Station. They planted the first coffee in 2013, and established the drying station in 2017. The vegetation and forest surrounding the farm is useful as natural shade for the farm and the drying station. Plantation, harvesting and processing works are mainly done by the local residents. Also women are involved and are mainly assigned to quality control and processing, except for labor intensive tasks. By offering working opportunities and proper wage this is a real benefit for the local residents. 

Daye Bensa’s Gatta Farm isn’t only a farm, it consists of a drying station, a lodge and a training facility. During harvesting season, the drying station becomes active and also offers accommodations for employees or trainees until the training has ended. The training facility offers training in coffee processing for interested individuals.

Daye Bensa is a coffee export company, founded by the brothers Asefa and Mulugeta Dukamo, in 2006.

Asefa and Mulugeta started out as coffee suppliers in the Sidama area with lots of experience. The younglings of the family, Kenean and Eliyas, also later joined the company as Daye Bensa started to grow. Now the company is with gentlemen like Kenean, schooled in the USA work in commerce and finance, and Eliyas on Quality. This high spirited family company supplies us now for the fourth year, and we are still planning on future collaborations.

Washing stations:

The company works with various communities of out-growers from whom they receive cherries. Daye Bensa works with multiple washing stations in the Sidama Bensa area, some of which are still left for us to explore. Shantewene, Keramo and Bombe were among the first stations that we worked with. 

In 2021, we undertook an expedition to cup multiple new and exciting stations that Daye Bensa has to offer. The Coffee Quest is proud to announce amazing new profiles under the Bensa sun from 2021: 

Hamasho: Keramo’s neighbour station, Hamasho boasts an amazing intensity in cup profile. With altitudes up to 2360 meter above sea level, Hamasho is one of our highest growing coffees.

Segera station:  This station can be found to the south east of Bombe. Here is where Daye Bensa applies dry fermentation on washed coffee lots, which creates an amazingly tropical profile of orange, passion fruit and peach. A great addition in terms of flavor diversity!

Gatta Farm: Daye Bensa runs a dedicated specialty program on this farm, called Gatta. The farm is at the heart of Shantawene Village, in the midst of natural forest and indigenous trees which they say are older than 200 years. The site is surrounded by rivers, one of which separates Shantawene from Bombe and runs from the hills above Keramo. 

The farm actively grows and processes coffee lots. This includes cherries supplied by registered out-grower farmers from adjacent villages as well. Continuing with the successful lots in 2021, in this year’s assortment we present; Anaerobic Natural, Honey and Natural micro lots of absolute pristine quality.

Read more about Daye Bensa, and their experience in the Cup of Excellence, in our blog series. New edition coming up soon.

Product

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Gatta Farm actively grows and processes coffee lots, including cherries supplied by registered out-grower farmers from adjacent villages. This year, we are working with Gatta Farm to receive some of the first Ethiopian micro lots to hit the market. In this year’s assortment we present: Natural, Honey and Anaerobic Natural micro lots of absolute exceptional quality.

Naturals – At Daye Bensa’s Gatta Farm, Natural processing starts with floating the red cherries in water tanks to eliminate unripe cherries. Then they go directly to the African raised beds to dry. Green cherries are removed by hand and the coffee is rotated every 30 minutes for even dry and to avoid unwanted fermentation. After reaching the right dryness, the coffee is bagged and stored for further processing.

Malawo Honey – After floating the red cherries, they pulp the cherries leaving the desired amount of mucilage on the cherries and then transfering them to raised beds for drying. The word “Malawo” means honey in the local language.

Anaerobic Natural – For this process, the cherries are going to be handpicked to remove the unriped and green cherries after floating. After that, only red cherries are transferred to fermentation tanks and then sealed off and left to ferment up to the desired amount of time. For this different factors can influence the fermentation, such as the humidity, temperature and others. After opening the fermentation tankers, the fermented coffee is transferred to beds for drying.

Price

Ethiopian farmers provide cherries to local washing stations on a daily basis. The stations functions as a collection point and will therefore target farmers geographically. The washing stations are central to post-harvest processing and futher development of quality. 

Cherry prices have been steadily on the rise in Ethiopia. In case of Gatta Farm, prices went up from 15-17 Birr in 2019, to 20-24Birr in 2020, to 31 Birr/kg in 2021. This price increase is to the benefit of the producer.

The steep increase in prices has many reasons which I will touch upon in the segment below. What you are about to read there, is my interpretation of what we have seen, experienced, and what has been told to us directly. 

Buyer power: Weakening due to liberalization and fragmentation.

With an increasing number of exporters  and the rising cherry price, many existing exporters see their profits in jeopardy. The reality in rural Ethiopia is that your competition can act very unpleasantly, if you start a price ‘war’ to secure more cherries. Hence, one of the strategies is to pay your farmers well and keep them dedicated to their role, while keeping the competition at bay. A method used is to organize a second payment once competitive emotions have settled, and the coffee season is over. Such inter-exporter price agreements can also be seen as actually damaging to the farmers independent position, as they rely on the exporter’s responsibility to share their profits with farmers.

Supplier power: Strengthening due to producer confidence,  options, and regulation. 

In Ethiopia, many coffees are produced by washing stations that buy cherries from smallholder farmers. In 2021, the cherry price in Ethiopia in general and in Sidama specifically, have again risen with about 50%, even with a low C-market price during the season. One of the reasons for this is the local competitiveness on the cherry market. Policy changes and liberalization of the coffee market meant the number of exporters competing for cherries rose significantly. Moreover, since 2020, the Ethiopian Central Bank has installed minimum prices, preventing exporters from striking low value high volume deals with large buyers. This was effectively elevating the value to the Ethiopian crop, often to the benefit of the producers. 

As a result, in 2020 the first Ethiopian Cup of Excellence has involved a multitude of producers nation-wide. An excellent development to promote traceability in the global specialty chain. Success in the competition can inspire development and enable their producing power, against buyers. This situation creates a ripple effect nationally, which improves a farmer’s competitiveness. Although cherry prices of the previous decade were as low as 10 ETB/kg, in 2020 they average around 20-24 ETB, across the country, and in 2021 year peak above 30ETB/kg. 

What will happen next?

Ethiopia has many underexplored coffee regions, where coffee can still bring more development, For example, Limu and Guji. We identify a lot of movement and local investments to increase coffee production and processing, and new initiatives are taking place, partly due to lower relative cherry prices. One must remember, however, that these areas also face higher investment and transaction cost for processors and exporters. We are witnessing a shift of the frontier. Areas like Sidama consolidate their position in the global specialty coffee market to the benefit of the producers. Areas like Limu and Guji still have grown to their full potential for producers and exporters alike.

We will keep exploring the price element of our business with our Ethiopian export partners, and will provide as much insight as we can into the realities of Ethiopian coffee business.

Planet

Daye Bensa Coffee has been always working on environmental projects. As for Gatta Farm, any wash stage of coffee processing is discharged properly and mainly turned into natural fertilizers and compost to be used at the farm. Also, the farm and the facilities are built in order to preserve the natural forestry and vegetation around. 

In 2020, Daye Bensa received the organic certification to start exporting fully organic crops. The Coffee Quest is following this development closely!

Other certifications held by Daye Bensa are: UTZ &  RainForest Alliance.

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