Food & Wine
Ethiopia plans to start commercial production of a coffee variety with naturally low caffeine that was found growing in the wild, the agricultural minister has said.
Decaffeinated coffee accounts for 10 per cent of total coffee sales in the world, a multibillion-dollar industry. Natural decaf brews could dominate over the current chemically caffeine-reduced options in today's health-conscious market.
"Coffee research centres are in the process of planting seedlings of natural coffee with low caffeine varieties, to enable Ethiopia to supply the world market within the shortest possible time," said Abera Deressa, State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
In July 2004, a Brazilian scientist, Paulo Mazzafera declared he had discovered a variety of naturally decaffeinated coffee from 6,000 specimens collected in Ethiopia in the 1980s.
The find sparked a dispute with Ethiopian authorities who accused him of taking the bushes without permission.
The Horn of Africa country prides itself as the origin of coffee, said to have originated in the Kafa region, a misty forested highland region in the south west. The nation is also the continent's biggest producer and consumer of the bean.
The decaf coffee could prove a hit with coffee lovers who enjoy the rich aroma and taste but not the caffeine, and generate much-needed income for poor Ethiopian farmers, economists say.
Abera, who spoke at a coffee research conference, also urged researchers to seek coffee varieties with higher yields.
"Although Ethiopia is home to arabica coffee with high generic diversity, the national average yield has not exceeded five to six quintals per hectare, which is lower than in other coffee producing countries," he said.
He attributed the low yield to poor management and lack of initiative owing to low and fluctuating world coffee prices.
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