Leaves exporters, suppliers perturbed
Exporters and suppliers in the coffee industry are frustrated by the sporadic robbery of export coffee that is loaded onto trucks and transported to the export preparation site in the capital. After passing through security checkpoints, the trucks carrying coffee disappeared without a trace.
Exporters and officials from the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority told The Reporter that three coffee-carrying trucks were robbed in the past few weeks. The trucks were eventually located, but the coffee had vanished.
A truck carrying 300 sacks of coffee, each containing an average of 61 kilograms of coffee, was robbed in Addis Ababa last week after passing through the Kality customs checkpoint on the city’s outskirts. The coffee, valued at approximately 11 million birr, was sourced from Bensa Woreda in Sidama Regional State, one of Ethiopia’s major important coffee-producing regions.
The truck were on their way to a warehouse in Addis Ababa to be prepared for export.
A few weeks ago, two additional trucks belonging to a supplier and another exporter were involved in similar incidents, causing concern among industry players.
The Authority has received reports of the three incidents and is conducting follow-up with the relevant entities, according to Shafi Umer, deputy director general of the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority.
“We have received reports of coffee theft from the exporters, so we are diligently following up,” he said. Shafi told The Reporter that his office is taking action, which includes sending letters to the relevant entities. “It has been a few weeks since the onset of these incidents, and we are working with law enforcement to find a solution.”
He also confirmed that the coffee in one of the trucks had been located, while the driver of the other truck had been detained and the location of the third truck was unknown.
A member of the Sidama Coffee Suppliers Association’s top management and a supplier who requested anonymity told The Reporter that his 2,700 members are concerned because the two that were robbed, were members of the Association.
The truck, according to him, was lost while transporting coffee to Addis Ababa.
“The truck was transporting the coffee to the capital. Then the driver and his assistant called, saying they were robbed after passing Kality. We don’t know if they know the robbers or not, but it’s strange that the entire contents of the truck was robbed in Addis Ababa.”
The driver and his assistant, according to the supplier, are now in police custody.
Two weeks ago, the same thing occurred to an exporter who sourced the coffee from Dila, a town in southern Ethiopia, he says. “I’ve been informed that this stolen coffee was recovered following negotiations.”
The coffee exporters and suppliers have almost no prior experience with coffee theft en route, particularly in Addis Ababa; consequently, the most recent incidents have caused anxiety among industry players.
One of the exporters who lost his coffee after making deals with European buyers vented his frustrations anonymously. He claims that the coffee was sourced from remote rural areas without any security incidents, only to be lost while being transported to Addis Ababa.
“Even in an area with minimal security, we did not experience any robbery. How can we anticipate it in areas where law enforcement is robust and the rule of law is upheld?” He queried. “I have already sold the coffee to my international clients; what will I send them now?”
The robbed suppliers and exporters spoke to The Reporter anonymously since the police are investigating their cases.