Coffee | Roses | Leather & leather Products | Oilseeds & Pulses | Natural Gum
Textile Fabrics & Garments | Tea | Mineral Products | Others

The current economic liberalization taking place in the country and the Government’s strong commitment to create an enabling environment for the development of the private sector have impacted positively on the export market.

In addition to the conducive and continually improving free-market-oriented-policy environment, Ethiopia offers various advantages for the development of its export sector. These include the abundant and capable labor force, low wage levels, a wide-ranging weather and soil conditions, preferential access to the European Union markets and proximity to the Middle-East markets. The preferential access to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern African States (COMESA) with a total population of more than 260 million also offers substantial market opportunities for several export items from Ethiopia.

At present, the major export products of Ethiopia include coffee, livestock products (Skins & hides, leather, live animals and meat), oil seeds and pulses, fruits, vegetables and flowers, textiles, natural gum, spices and mineral products. In addition to efforts underway to increase the quantity and improve the quality of these export products, investments in other unexploited, higher value-added, export sectors are highly encouraged. In recognizing that large capital investments are needed to exploit these resources, various incentives are currently being offered to woo foreign investors (including joint ventures and marketing arrangements) so that the sector provides meaningful contribution to the country’s development.

The trade relations between Ethiopia and Japan have been strengthened over the years. As a primary trading partner, Ethiopia has been exporting some of its products like coffee, skins & hides, spices, oilseeds, natural gum, etc. to Japanese market. Ethiopia’s coffee, known as “Mocha Coffee” is famous in Japan, and currently ranks fourth in Japanese market next to Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia.

The Embassy of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in Dublin is always ready to cooperate with those who have interest to do business in Ethiopia.

The word "coffee" is derived from Kaffa, a coffee growing region in western Ethiopia, from where coffee was first used and later exported to neighboring Yemen. More genetically diverse strains of Coffee Arabica exist in Ethiopia than anywhere else in the world, which has led botanists and scientists to agree that Ethiopia is the center of origin, diversification and dissemination of the coffee plant.

Coffee drinking has entered Ethiopia social life, and coffee is used in get-together or celebration or during mourning, and to ward off drowsiness. Today, coffee ceremony – where coffee is roasted, ground and brewed – is central to the Ethiopian social life. The ground around the brazier where the beans are roasted and brewed is strewn with green grass and flowers, and the air is ‘perfumed’ with incense. In a world where time has long become a commodity, the Ethiopian coffee ceremony takes at least an hour and at least 3 cups should be drunk – takes us to a time when value was given to human relation and discourse.

From Ethiopia coffee spread first to its neighbors, in the Middle East, and from there, to the rest of the world. Today Ethiopia is the first in Africa in terms of coffee production.

For a connoisseur of coffee, Ethiopian coffee is not only the world’s first, but also the world’s finest. This is both because of the diversity of flavors and also because in a world where consumers everywhere are increasingly worried about the effect of chemical pesticides and fertilizers on their health and the environment in general, Ethiopian coffee remains organic. Over 60% of Ethiopian coffee is produced as forest or semi-forest coffee. The soil of the forest floor is enriched from falling leaves, making fertilizers unnecessary. In these forests the high degree of genetic diversity has created a balance of pests and parasites, making chemical pesticide unnecessary too.

Coffee cherries are picked when they are bright red in color, glossy in appearance and firm but not hard to the touch. 65% of Ethiopian coffee exports are naturally dried, while 35% is pulped and “washed”. Coffee grows at elevation between 1100 and 2300 meters above sea level.

The following are some of the types of coffee of Ethiopian origin and which are unique to the world.

Harar Coffee

This is produced in the Eastern Highlands. The bean is medium in size, with a greenish-yellowish color. It has medium acidity and full body and a distinctive mocha flavor. It is one of the highest premium Coffees in the world.

Wollega (Nekempte) Coffee

This is produced in Western Ethiopia, and the medium-to-bold bean is mainly known for its fruity taste. It has a greenish, brownish color, with good acidity and body. There are many roasters who put this flavor in their blends, but it can also be sold as an original gourmet or special origin flavor.

Limu Coffee

This is known for its spicy and Winnie flavor and attracts many roasters, especially in Europe and the USA. It has good acidity and body and the washed Limu is one of the premium coffees. It has a medium-sized bean, and is greenish-bluish in color and mostly round in shape.

Sidama Coffee

It has a medium sized bean, greenish-grayish in color. Sidamo washed coffee, known for its balanced taste and good flavor, is called sweet coffee. It has fine acidity and good body and is produced in the southern part of the country. It is always blended for gourmet or specialty coffee.

Yirgacheffe Coffee

It has an intense flavor known as flora. The washed Yirgacheffe is one of the best highland grown coffees. It has fine acidity and rich body. Many roasters are attracted to its delicate fine flavor and are willing to pay a premium for it. There are also other origins, such as Tepi and Bebeka, which are known for their low acidity but better body. In addition, there are commercially important origins, which are used for special blends.

When you are buying coffee, ask for Ethiopian, which has been organic long before organic became fashionable. If you would like more information about Ethiopian coffee and its many varieties, write to: Ethiopian Coffee Authority.

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Leather & leather Products

Livestock potential: Ethiopia is the tenth in the world and first in Africa in livestock. According to the sample census carried out by the Central Statistics Authority of Ethiopia between 2001 and 2003, the country has 40 millions cattle, 25.5 millions sheep, 23.4 millions goats and 2.3 millions Camels. Despite the huge potential, the sector contributes only 16% GNP and 17% foreign currency, which leaves much more room for development in order to realize its full potential.

Currently, Ethiopia offers a wide range of processed and semi-processed hides and skins to the world market. Some of the products, such as Ethiopian highland sheepskin (which has gained international reputation for making gloves), are known for their quality and natural characteristics.

Ethiopian hides and skins exports including pickled sheep skin, wet blue sheep skin, crust sheep skin, wet blue goat skin, crust goat skin, crust cow hides, finished garment leather, finished glove leather, lining/upper leather, suede leather, full grain leather, corrected grain leather, embossed leather and patent leather

The export of finished leather and leather products (such as leather garments, foot wear, gloves, bags and other leather articles) is also highly promising.

Oilseeds and Pulses

Ethiopian oilseeds and pulses are known for their flavor and nutritional value as they are mostly produced organically. For instance, the Ethiopian white sesame seed is used as a reference for grading in international markets.

In terms of quantity, in 1996 – 97 (E.C), Ethiopia exported 78 thousand tons of oilseeds and 20 thousand tons of pulses.

Ethiopia’s major oilseeds and pulses exports include, sesame seed, Niger seeds, linseeds, sunflower seeds, groundnuts, rape seeds, castor oil seeds, pumpkin seeds, haricot beans, pea-beans, horse beans, chick peas, beans and lentils

The gulf states (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Israel), European Union, some Asian and neighboring African countries constitute the major markets for Ethiopia’s oilseeds and pulses exports.

Natural Gum

Ethiopia is endowed with distinct climatic conditions, which enables it to grow diverse plant species used for industrial and pharmaceutical purposes. Acacia, Commiphora & Boswellia could be mentioned as one group of the various plant species grown in the arid and semi-arid areas yielding important gums.

The increasing trend of consumption of convenient foods has enhanced the growth of production of gum and its use over the past several years. As in most other sectors of the additives industry, increasing health consciousness has also tended to fuel growth for thickeners of natural origin.

The major gum products produced mainly for export are Gum Olibanum derived from Boswellia, Gum Myrrh, and Oppoponex derived from Commiphora and Gum Arabic derived from Acacia species.

Apart from their pharmaceutical applications, these products have a wide-range of industrial uses in areas such as beverages, candies, chewing gums, confectioneries, dairy products, gelatins, nut products, puddings and canned vegetables. Typical applications include their uses as:

Gum Olibanum

Gum Myrrh

Gum Oppoponex

Gum Arabic

Gum Olibanum

  • Adhesive thickeners;
  • Thickeners, stabilizers, flavor, fixatives and emulsifying agents in food products;
  • Clarification in beverages;
  • Release agents for rubber products;
  • Formulations in cosmetics; etc.

Textile Fabrics and Garments

The textile industry is the largest manufacturing industry in the Country. There are more than fourteen state owned and private major textile and garment factories. It employs about 30,000 workers having a share of 36% of the entire manufacturing industry.

The main textile products manufactured in the Country are cotton and nylon fabrics, acrylic yarn, woolen and waste cotton blankets and sewing thread.

The domestic potential of cotton production as basic raw material is far more than the demand of the current installed spinning capacity and the availability of cheap labor is one of the major parameters for considering this industrial sector as one of the strategic industries for export development.

The cotton yarn and thread products include:

Yarn/bleached or gray/ combed or carded 81/2, 10, 21 30, 40, 50, 60, 80 counts and others as per the requirements of customers.

Pure polyester and cotton sewing thread in different colors and counts:

  • 40/3, 50/3, 60/3 pure cotton;
  • 60/3, 100% polyesters;
  • 5,000 or 1,000meters in spool;
  • 5,000 or 10,000 meters in cones for industrial use; etc.


The quality of tea mainly depends on climatic conditions, the type of soil upon which the plant grows and the method of processing. In Ethiopia, tea is mostly grown in the highland dense forest regions where the land is fertile and thus the use of fertilizer is very minimal.

Moreover, the availability of abundant and cheap labor in the Country has made the use of manual weeding, instead of chemical weeding, possible. Because of this mostly organic cultivation, Ethiopian tea is increasingly sought for its aroma and natural flavors. This is confirmed by the "International Gold Star" award for quality recently given by B.D.I. in Madrid, Spain to one of the major Ethiopian tea exporters, Tea Production and Marketing Enterprise.

Mineral Products

According to studies so far conducted, there are diversified mineral deposits available in many parts of the Country, most of which can meet export standards. Minerals so far supplied to export markets include gold, platinum, marble, granite, and tantalum, though in a very limited scale as compared to the immense potentials. Other metallic and non-metallic substances, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, gypsum, limestone, quartz and pyrite are also identified in various parts of the Country.

Most of Ethiopian mineral products are potentially exportable to countries in East and Southern Africa, and in the Asia / Oceania market area as, in both of these regions, because of the freight cost advantage over established exports from Europe and North America.

Ethiopia has also recently entered into the export of high quality dimensional stones, i.e. different types of unprocessed (blocks) and processed marble, granite and lime stones suitable for both internal and external uses.


Some other products that Ethiopia exports to the world market include :

  • Spices
  • Civet
  • Beverages
  • Beeswax
  • Gall-stone
  • Cereals
  • Fish

Export Strategy

Ethiopia's external trade sector is characterized by a significant product & market concentration. Primary commodities such as coffee, hides & skins, live animals, pulses and oil seeds heavily dominate its export trade. Its imports consist of, among others, semi-finished goods, petroleum & petroleum products, food items, pharmaceuticals, vehicles & spare parts, raw materials as well as industrial and agricultural capital goods. When it comes to markets, the developed market economies absorb and supply over 70 % of the country's exports & imports. Coffee is the most important export item accounting for about 60% of the country's export earnings. Cognizant of the need to reduce dependence on coffee and other few primary export commodities, the government gives emphasis towards export promotion & diversification. In this line, a new export development strategy has been adopted. The strategy emphasizes the need to:

- increase the quantity and quality of existing export items,
- diversify export items to new, better & high value agriculture products,
- develop a new basis for exports of labor intensive manufacturing goods like leather and leather products, and textile garments,
- explore & develop mineral & fuel deposits for exports.

With a view to facilitating implementation of this strategy and providing a comprehensive support to exporters, the government has set up recently an Export Promotion Agency (EPA).

Customs Tariff Nomenclature

Ethiopia is a member of the World Customs Organization and has acceded to the International Convention on Harmonized Description and Coding System. According to the Harmonized System(HS) tariff structure, most of the goods imported previously duty free and those with specific duty rates were replaced by ad valorem rate. In the tariff structure, whether durable or not, goods are given a tariff code & classified on the basis of their type & characteristics in to 21 sections & 99 chapters.

Customs Duty

The Government of Ethiopia, since 1992, has taken successive measures to drastically & progressively reduce rates of customs duty to open the local market to foreign competition. This measure has the following features:
- maximum import tariff has been reduced from 230% to 50 %,
- weighted average rate has been reduced from 41.6% to 21.5%,
- 65% of importable items are within the range of 5% to 20% duty,
- tariff bands have been reduced to seven (excluding zero-duty rate),
- there are no discriminatory duty exemptions,
- all export taxes have been abolished.

A further reduction in the maximum tariff rate to 40% and the weighted rate to 19.5% is also being considered.

There are also no restrictions in the import of any goods except for those items which are socially and morally harmful (eg. drugs, armaments, indecent prints, counterfeit money etc.). There is neither import ban nor quantitative import restriction.

Import Payment

Commercial banks which are licensed in Ethiopia are authorized to facilitate imports and provide associated services against submission of the required documents by the importer. The payment methods can be one of the following: Letter of Credit(L/C), Cash Against Document(CAD), Advance Payment, Suppliers Credit, External Loans, and/or Franco Valuta.

Ethiopia's Export Commodities

The major export commodities of Ethiopia are presented below;

Coffee:- being the origin of coffee arabica, Ethiopia has immense potential to offer to the world varieties of flavors of organically produced washed & sun dried coffee. This sector accounts for about 60% of the country's export earnings. More than 90% of the nation's coffee harvested is organically produced. The country produces several types of coffee whose water-soluble extracts can be used for hot beverages, iced drinks, ice creams & in the confectionery industry.

Leather and Leather Products:- Ethiopia also offers a wide range of processed and semi-processed hides & skins to the world market. This sector accounts for about 14% of the total exports. Ethiopia's high quality exportable hides & skins include: pickled, wet blue and crust sheep skins; wet blue & crust goat skins; crust cow hides, finished garment leather, lining/upper leather, suede leather, full grain leather, embossed leather, patent leather, and so on.

Live Animals & Meat:- Ethiopia has the largest cattle population in Africa. Livestock husbandry is mostly carried out under natural grazing, making the meat and products very tasty & nutritionally healthy.

Oil Seeds & Pulses:- the oilseeds and pulses of Ethiopia are also known for their flavor and nutritional value as they are mostly produced organically. The major oilseeds & pulses for export include; sesame seed, nigger seed, linseeds, sunflower seeds, ground nuts, rape seeds, castor oil seeds, pumpkin seeds, haricot beans, pea beans, horse beans & chick peas.

Natural Gum:- the country is endowed with distinct climatic conditions which enable to grow diverse plant species used for industrial and pharmaceutical purposes. Among these are some famous plants for the production of natural gum. Gum Olibanum derived from Boswellia, Gum Myrrh and Oppiponex from Commiphora and Gum Arabic from Acacia species are the major gum products produced mainly for export market. Apart from their pharmaceutical applications, these products have wide-range of industrial uses in areas such as beverages, candies, chewing gums, confectioneries, diary products etc.

Other major quality export commodities of Ethiopia are tea, mineral products, different kinds of fruits & vegetables, flowers, varieties of spices, beverages, civet, bees wax, cotton etc.

Last Updated (Sunday, 13 March 2011 23:18)