This exceptional Natural Process coffee was dry milled and exported by Primrose, PLC. The coffee was grown by smallholder farmers living around the kebele (town) of Gomoro in the Oromia Region.
Most contributing farmers own less than a hectare of land, and they grow coffee simply as a backyard cash crop. Coffee will usually be interspersed with other subsistence crops, such as sweet potato, mangos and avocados, but there are no other primary cash crops grown in the region.
Primrose S.P. PLC, is a stakeholder in the supplier washing station and works directly with them to control for quality and cultural practices on the farm. Income from coffee is important but minimal for most farmers due to the small size of their farms. As such, inputs are minimal – most coffee grown in the region is 100% organic, though not certified, as farmers simply don’t have the money to apply chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides. Primrose ensures that there are agricultural officers who work closely with each farmer to ensure the fertility of the farm land. In fact, soon the wet mill and surrounding farmers will also be RFA and UTZ certified.
Farmers in the region are susceptible to a number of challenges, namely; an aging generation of coffee trees, negative effects from climate change and fluctuations in the coffee market price. Climate change in particular is having difficult repercussions, as fluctuating season’s effects harvesting, as well as unexpected rains increasing the length of the drying process. Fortunately, local initiatives are attempting to combat these problems. Working with agricultural development agents, farmers in the region are finding new support to help combat climate change as well as plant new coffee trees, helping to improve the sustainable production of coffee in the area.
Regarding market price fluctuations, stakeholder organisations are working to pay fair price to farmers for their coffee production. Primrose pays more than the market price for a kilogram of red cherry, and those farmers that bring quality red cherry are paid a cash incentive, ensuring higher-than-average overall quality.
Coffee is selectively hand-picked before being delivered to the mill collection points, usually within 5 km of the producer’s homes. At least once a day, the collected coffee cherry is delivered to the mill, where it is floated and then placed on raised beds, to be dried as well as sorted by hand. Great care is taken upon delivery to separate out any overripe, under ripe or damaged bean. Once sorted, the cherry will remain on the beds for around 15 to 20 days; until the cherry has reached the ideal moisture content. Next, the dried cherry will be milled in this case at Guji Uraga, before being transported to Primroses dry mill and warehouse in Addis Ababa city. Here coffee is often milled again to remove foreign material, remaining parchment, and defected beans; ready for export.
Varieties of coffee grown here are traditionally referred to as ‘heirloom’ by exporters – a catchall terminology which often masks the wide assortment of varieties that may be present within various regions…even, within farms. It is thought that there may be up to ten thousand naturally occurring varieties in the wild. Many of these varieties will have been developed originally by Ethiopia’s Jimma Agricultural Research Centre (JARC), which, since the late 1960s, has worked to develop resistant and tasty varieties for the Ethiopian coffee industry and also to provide the agricultural extension training needed to cultivate them. The dual factors of Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) forced anonymisation of lots (see below) combined with the relatively low awareness of formal variety names outside Ethiopia has meant that the JARC’s work has historically been under-recognised by specialty importers and roasters, but a new book issued by Counter Culture Coffee in the USA (2018/19) has drawn new attention to the topic, and rightly so.
It is important to note that varieties in Ethiopia fall within two main groups – regional or local landraces (of which there are at least 130, 33 of which would hail from the Southern growing regions) or JARC varieties. It is still very hard to tell but it is highly likely that this lot contains a great percentage of JARC 740110 and 74112 varieties, developed in 1974 by the JARC, which are directly descended from local landraces indigenous to the Gedeo Region. Most farmers have a mix of both the improved and the indigenous landrace varieties (inherited from parents and grandparents) on their farms, though research by Counter Culture’s Getu Bekele does show that there is a strong concentration of the JARC ’74 varieties.