Ethiopian wants a bigger cut from international coffee snobbery

I would be nice to see the instruments of neoliberal economic power–so ruthlessly exploited for Northern gain at the expense of the world’s poor most of the time–contribute to the empowerment of an extremely impoverished developing country for a change. The lot of commodity producers is often falling prices, while the finished product exports of wealthier countries tend to rise, so I think this is a particularly unusual situation.

Traditional Ethiopian coffee really puts hair on your chest. Especially if you have it with a pile of qat. (Consumed in Ethiopia, for the record, not the USA, which considers it a Schedule I controlled substance, while of course allowing alcohol. I’ve heard that there are qat speak-easy’s in some US cities with large concentrations of Ethiopians.)  You won’t sleep for weeks.

In trademarking its coffee, Ethiopia seeks fair trade |

Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia – Nestled in the hills of southern Ethiopia lies a resource that could catapult this nation forward: coffee.

Connoisseurs worldwide savor the beans from Yirgacheffe for their distinctive flavor. And at a time when more consumers are targeting specialty brews, Ethiopia is poised to reap the rewards of a product that commands $10 per pound in the United States.

But while upscale consumers are willing to pay top dollar for the beans, farmers in Ethiopia sell their product for a pittance – less than $1 per pound. "It’s like growers of Dom Perignon Champagne getting the same price as growers of bulk wine," says Ron Layton, founder and chief executive of Light Years, IP, a Washington-based group that helps producers in poor countries get better prices.

But Ethiopia recently shook up the industry with a new tactic: trademarking its specialty coffees.

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