The producers of Keramo, who live high up in the beautiful Bombe mountains, have a relationship as outgrowers with our Ethiopian partner, Daye Bensa. The outgrower group consists of about 1500 growers in various parts of the mountain range. The producers deliver their coffee to Daye Bensa Keramo washing station,
Daye Bensa is a coffee exporting company, founded in 2006 by the brothers Asefa and Mulugeta Dukamo. 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 counting!
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. 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.
Cup of Excellence:
In 2020, Daye Bensa won the 7th place in the Cup of Excellence with their Assefa Dukamo Natural, grown on Gatta farm and processed in Shantawene station. In 2021, Assefa Dukamo of Daye Bensa participated with a washed Hamasho coffee and reached the 8th rank.
Read more about Daye Bensa, and their experience in the Cup of Excellence, in our blog series.
Keramo cherries are processed at Keramo Washing Station. Keramo, together with Hamasho are our highest elevation coffees from Ethiopia, with elevations up to 2360 meter above sea level. The beans are very dense, with heavy concentration of the smaller screen sizes (the majority of the coffee screen sizes at 13-14). This reflects slow maturation at higher altitudes.
The washed Keramo is traditionally wet fermented during 36 to 72 hours, and then dried on African beds with clean plastic mesh and sheet, for about 9 to 12 days to around 10% moisture. during high sun. The beds are covered to prevent over drying.
Natural Keramo is made from well selected, ripe cherries. The cherry is floated upon reception to remove any low quality cherry, then dried on African beds for 14 to 18 days. The cherries are locally hulled into unsorted natural beans, and transported to Addis for final sorting afterwards.
Ethiopian farmers provide cherries to local washing stations on a daily basis. The stations functions as a collection point and target farmers geographically. The washing stations are central to post-harvest processing and further development of quality.
Cherry prices have been steadily on the rise in Ethiopia. In case of Sidama, 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.
The Coffee Quest is happy to see that Daye Bensa is receiving cherries that are mostly organic by default. The lack of access to resources in the last decades has limited the usage and application of chemical fertilizers. In comparison, farmers in several Latin American countries have decided to move from conventional to organic certified production to access a price premium.
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