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Coffee and Tea Authority drafts proclamation to boost spice sector

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By Muluken Yewondwossen

In a groundbreaking move, the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority (ECTA) is currently in the process of drafting a proclamation that aims to propel the spice industry to new heights. Recognizing the immense potential for significant foreign currency generation from the sector, ECTA has taken on the responsibility of monitoring the development and marketing of spices in the country.

Experts have long emphasized the need for the government to pay more attention to the spice industry, as its actors have repeatedly called for support. They have highlighted the sector’s capacity to create employment opportunities, generate foreign exchange, and contribute to overall socioeconomic development.

Ethiopia boasts a diverse agroecological landscape that is highly conducive to the production of high-quality spices. However, challenges in terms of industry expertise, quality control, and proper regulation have hindered its progress. Issues such as processing, post-harvest handling, packaging, and transportation have adversely affected the quality of spices, limiting their export potential.

Currently, Ethiopia’s main spice exports include ginger, turmeric, red pepper, black fennel seeds, and coriander. However, efforts are underway to diversify and cultivate additional varieties, such as black pepper. Stakeholders have expressed strong demand for Ethiopian spices in international markets, emphasizing the need for sustainable supply and improved quality.

To address the challenges faced by the spice sector and unlock its full potential, the Ethiopian government is focusing on key areas such as agricultural extension services, the use of improved seeds, and enhancing post-harvest operations. Experts believe that with the right attention and support, the sector has the potential to generate over USD 100 million in revenue, surpassing its previous peak of USD 20 million.

ECTA has been actively involved in the development of the spice industry, particularly for products that have a strong presence in international markets. The authority has been encouraging farmers and commercial investors to grow spices like vanilla and black pepper within coffee fields, leveraging the existing infrastructure and resources.

One of the significant challenges in the spice sector has been the lack of effective governance for supply chain participants, in contrast to the well-regulated coffee industry. To address this, efforts are underway to create comprehensive legislation through the upcoming “spices quality and marketing proclamation.” This proclamation aims to regulate various aspects of the industry, including marketing strategies, quality control measures, logistics, and export practices.

The proclamation seeks to improve the supply of high-quality products, combat illegal activities, regulate contraband, and enhance Ethiopia’s reputation as a reliable supplier of premium spices in the global market. Stakeholders, including the Ethiopian Spices, Aromatic and Herbs Growers and Exporters Association, are actively providing input on the draft proclamation to ensure that it aligns with current market conditions and supports the overall development of the sector.

In addition to the proclamation, a directive for quality monitoring and marketing of spice products was implemented in March 2023. This directive has already made significant progress in addressing issues such as adulteration, hoarding, and artificial price hikes. It also covers crucial aspects such as quality control, harvesting practices, and effective marketing strategies for various spices. Furthermore, the directive designates the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange as the secondary market platform, providing additional avenues for spice trade.

To further enhance the spice industry, the regulation includes provisions for technical certification, value addition, processing industries, storage facilities, and quality certification for wholesalers and retailers. It establishes clear guidelines for market participants and distinguishes between primary, secondary, and export markets.

Ethiopia, with its rich heritage of producing more than 50 types of spices out of the 109 recognized by the World Spice Organization, is determined to leverage its immense potential and establish a thriving spice sector characterized by improved quality standards and increased market access.

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