Controversial on the message boards but always prepared with comment, our favorite Ethiopian blogger out of Seattle – Wondwossen Mezlekia – has penned another glorious piece about the the Bladdergate fiasco of 2011. Here’s his eloquent take on how it all went down:
Last month, coffee buyers across the globe had a rare glimpse into Ethiopians’ day to day experience, where haphazard policymaking is used by the government to interfere in and control people’s business whenever it feels like it. A new directive requiring the shipment of coffee in bulk container (a process of filling coffee in ‘dry containers’ fitted with a liner, as opposed to loading coffee packed in 60-kilogram jute-bags) suddenly surfaced in mid November and shocked the market. It was revoked thirty days later because of pressures from foreign diplomats, plummeting sales, and a cloud of fear of losing coffee buyers for good.
It’s not clear how it all began, but it appears some genius one day figured out the quickest way to “modernize the country’s export packaging and shipment standards” and the government decided to begin shipping coffee in bulk containers within two years. And, sometime during the 2010/11 fiscal year, an anonymous “investor” was granted a permit to import coffee blowers (machines equipped with a fan to generate a controlled pressure air current that throws coffee into containers, and a suction system to remove the dust created by the process.) Then, the operation began rolling out.
Read the rest of Wondwossen’s details on the Ministry of Trade by surfing over to Mr. Mezlekia’s blog, Poor Farmer. (Ed note: if there is anyone out there looking to start a dedicated coffee-themed early 80s synth-pop band, Ministry of Trade would make for an excellent name.)