I heard that 28 of the approximately 40 private washing stations were burnt down in and around the small town of Yirgacheffe. It’s unclear who the arsonists were. As a good friend confirmed, none of the washing stations in the cooperative system (Yirgacheffe Union) were destroyed, and also 13 private washing stations were spared. I got this info from Seattle Coffee Works. I have many friends from Ethiopia and they have been telling me the problems that are going on in the Countryside in their country. But i did not know where this was taking place. My heart goes out to the people of Ethiopia!
Ethiopia has long been governed by an authoritarian regime providing stability to an otherwise unstable region (Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Yemen are all directly neighboring or nearby countries). At the same time, the government has been criticized for well-documented human rights violations. The country continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world, with an explosive population growth of around 2.5% per year. It also has seemed on an economic upswing in recent years with double-digit GDP growth and quite a few major infrastructure projects underway (e.g. hydro-electric damn on the Nile, new highways to the South, new train line from Addis Ababa to the port city of Djibouti, light rail in Addis Ababa).
There had been political protests all summer long this year. From distant Seattle, at first I thought the main reason for political unrest was the fact that the largest ethnic groups (the Oromo and Amahara) did not feel adequately represented in government. The realities of Ethiopian politics are way more complex than that. On October 9, 2016, the Ethiopian government declared a State of Emergency for the entire country.
What the burning of 28 washing stations means for the 2016-17 crop year in Yirgacheffe coffee remains to be seen. Friends from Yirgacheffe directly affected by this tragedy said they’ll be able to rig together provisional working washing stations in the next two or three weeks. They will try to get as ready as they can to process this crop’s coffee cherries. If they don’t, there is sure to be a shortage of processing capacity in Yirgacheffe this year, and that might mean any number of things:
a) coffee cherries left on the trees because there won’t be enough processing capacitity;
b) lower quality because washing stations won’t have enough drying space to process the coffee;
c) lower availability of Yirgacheffe coffee and increased prices for the coffee that does come through;
d) further decreased income for already poor small holder farmers in the Yirgacheffe region.