By Barry Malone
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Resurgent coffee sales and diversification into other products lifted Ethiopia's exports to a record $2 billion in 2009/2010 from $1.5 billion in the previous year, the trade ministry told Reuters on Friday.
"Coffee has bounced back to $528 million this year," trade ministry spokesman, Amakale Yimam, told Reuters.
Ethiopia's export total fell well short of the $2.9 billion predicted by Minister of Trade, Girma Birru, in an interview with Reuters in November.
But Amakale said the Horn of Africa nation projected $3 billion in export revenue for 2010/2011 based on growth in new export commodities.
"Diversification has also helped our exports," Amakale said. "We're going to make more money from leather products and vegetables and flowers ... So we're confident we can make $3 billion."
In 2008/2009 (June/July), coffee earnings in Africa's biggest coffee exporter slumped to just $375.8 million after bad weather obliterated entire crops in some growing zones.
Exports last year were also shaken by Japan's insistence on testing beans on arrival after it found some were contaminated with pesticides. Japan, which buys almost 20 percent of Ethiopia's beans, has resumed imports.
Ethiopia prides itself on being the birthplace of coffee. Some 15 million smallholder farmers grow the crop, mostly in forested highlands in the west of the country.
Coffee accounted for some 60 percent of Ethiopia's foreign exchange revenue in the 2007/2008 season, when it earned more than $525 million in export revenue.
Despite the rebound, coffee exports amounted to little more than a quarter of the total in 2009/2010, the figures showed.
Flower exports accounted for $158 million in 2009/2010, an increase of 20.9 percent, Amakale said. Vegetable exports were just $32 million, but the sector is seen by the government as an industry with strong potential growth.
Ethiopia's exports were also boosted in 2009/2010 by growing sesame exports and by buoyant foreign sales of a narcotic leaf known as khat, Amakale said.
Ethiopia this year earned $209 million from khat, a 50 percent increase on 2008/2009, and $129 million from sesame -- a boost of 30 percent. Ethiopia is the world's fourth-largest sesame exporter after China, India and Myanmar.
Gold exports tripled to $300 million dollars in 2009/2010, Amakale said.
The country has made $450.5 million from about 48 tonnes of gold exports in the last 10 years, according to the central National Bank of Ethiopia.
The only export commodity that showed a fall in revenue was leather.
"We earned $56.5 million from leather this year, which was a 25 percent decrease," Amakale said. "But that is because we are in a transition phase, trying to move from exporting raw material to finished goods like handbags and shoes."
The Ethiopian government predicts growth of about 10 percent for 2010/2011. The International Monetary Fund says the economy will grow by 7 percent.
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