Roasters, importers find it hard to get Ethiopian coffee they want

I'd love to know what you're hearing about this issue.

By Melissa Allison
Seattle Times business reporter

U.S. coffee importers and roasters are worried that a new auction system in Ethiopia makes it almost impossible for them to buy coffee from the particular farmers whose beans they want.

The system, overseen by the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, mixes coffee beans from different growers before selling them for export.

That's a big deal to specialty roasters who prefer beans from certain growers and processors, and sometimes have worked with them to improve quality.

During a visit to the Ethiopian exchange in February, one Seattle coffee importer became concerned about how the new system would work.

"We spent a whole day going through the phases of grief — anger, denial and acceptance — just trying to get our arms around what's going on," said Craig Holt, owner of Atlas Coffee Importers.

The new auction system and its implications are poorly understood, Holt and others said.

What they know for sure is that they're unable to order many of the coffees they want.

Some have had trouble getting any coffee from Ethiopia, although it is not clear whether the new auction system is to blame.

The rest of the story is here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2008976281_ethiopia03.html.

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