We have been working with producers from Shantawene since 2015. Shantawene village is situated between the village of Bombe and the Bombe mountain. The producers are part of a member organization consisting of 1500 out-growers located in various parts of the mountain range.
Cherries from this village are processed at Daye Bensa’s Shantawene washing station. It is the site which recently received lots of attention due to the fact that the 2020 #7 Ethiopian Cup of Excellent coffee was processed here. Daye Bensa, is also investing in upgrading processing equipment on the site, to start working on new and exciting processing varieties the farmers called Heirloom Shantawene coffee. It is also one of the production sites of the new dry fermented process.
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.
The company works with various communities of outgrowers from whom they receive cherries. Daye Bensa works with multiple washing station in Sidama Bensa area, most of which are still left for us to explore. Shantewene, Keramo and Bombe were among the first stations that we worked with.
This year, 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. We will be working with some new stations going forward:
Hamasho: Keramo’s neighbour station Hamasho boasts an amazing intensity in cup profile. With altitudes up to 2360 meter above sea level, Hamasho one of our highest growing coffees.
Segera station: You can find this station 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 flavour 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. They site is surrounded by rivers, one of them separating Shantawene from Bombe and runs from the hills above Keramo.
The 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; Anaerobic Natural, Honey and Natural micro lot 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 place in the ranking.
Read more about Daye Bensa, and their experience in the Cup of Excellence, in our blog series. New edition coming up soon.
Shantawene cherries are processed at Shantawene Gafisse Washing Station situated at the centre of Daye Bensa’s world of amazing coffee. The station is one of the location from which Daye Bensa spread knowledge of better processing techniques around their network. Shantawene station is also the site on which the 2020 #7 Cup of Excellence coffee was processed, its cherry production is on the nearby Gatta speciality farm.
The cherry delivered there grows between 1990 and 2190 meter above sea level. The beans are very dense, with heavy concentrations of the smaller screen sizes (the majority of the coffee screen sizes at 13-14). This reflects slow maturation at higher altitudes.
The washed Shantawene 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.
This year, we bought Natural Shantawene, which is made from well selected, ripe cherry. The cherry is floated upon reception to remove any low quality cherry and dried on African beds for 14 to 18 days. The cherries are locally hulled into unsorted natural beans, and then transported to Addis for final sorting.
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 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.
As the number of exporters increase, and the price of coffee cherry is on the rise. 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 cherry. That way, one of the strategies to pay your farmers well and keep them dedicated in their role to in production, while keeping the competition at bay. A method that is used, is to organize a second payment for when competitive emotions have settled, and the coffee season is over. The other way to look at this, is that such inter-exporter price agreements are actually damaging to the farmers independent position, as they rely on the responsibility of the exporter to share their profits with the farmers.
Supplier power: Strengthening due to producer confidence and 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 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 to strike low value high volume deals with large buyers, and effectively elevating the value to the Ethiopia 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 producer power, against buyers. This situation creates a ripple effect nationally, which improve a farmer’s competitiveness. Although cherry prices 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 price. One must remember, however, that these area’s 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 grow 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 from producers 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, in several Latin American countries there are farmers that decide 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 Alliancet