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Cablegate: Japan Embargoes Ethiopian Coffee for Trace Insecticides

VZCZCXRO2421
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #1870 1910446
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090446Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1237
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0724
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0515
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 001870

SIPDIS
DEPT FOR AF/E AND EEB
CAIRO PLEASE PASS TO LINDA LOGAN, USDA/APHIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD EINV EAGR ET
SUBJECT: Japan Embargoes Ethiopian Coffee for Trace Insecticides

1. SUMMARY: The Japanese Coffee Association (JCA) has rejected the
delivery of 16 container loads of Ethiopian coffee due to the
presence of three banned insecticides. The JCA sent multiple teams
to Ethiopia to obtain samples from throughout the supply chain to
determine the source of the contamination. At this time, it is
thought that the chemicals come from jute bags used in the
harvesting and shipping process. Testing is ongoing in Japan. The
implications for continued exports of Ethiopia's number one revenue
source are significant, as Japan purchased approximately 17% of the
country's last crop. END SUMMARY

2. According to Economic Officer Kazuyuki Takenaka from the Embassy
of Japan in Addis Ababa, in late April the Japanese Coffee
Association performed tests on Ethiopian coffee held in bonded
warehouses prior to importation into Japan. The tests found residue
of three globally banned chemicals- Gamma BHC (also known as
lindane), heptachlor, and chlordane. The levels of the three
chemicals were measured at over 100 times the acceptable limit, and
the coffee will not be imported into Japan. Takenaka stated that
Japan has some of the most stringent food safety standards in the
world, but pointed to a reading on one sample with a .232 parts per
million result for one of the banned pesticides (.002 parts per
million are allowed) as indicating that the coffee had what would be
considered a high insecticide level in other countries as well.
Since the initial finding, additional coffee has tested positive,
but Takenaka does not know the exact amount or value. Takenaka
stated that Japanese importers are no longer purchasing Ethiopian
coffee, and that the coffee already shipped may be returned for a
refund as it does not meet standards.

3. Advisors to USAID's project to improve coffee production told
Emboffs that, in their experience, chemical pesticides are not used
in small-holder Ethiopian coffee because of cost constraints.
Additionally, coffee is generally not irrigated, mitigating the
possibility that the beans were contaminated by runoff from other
agricultural enterprises. Plantation coffee is very uncommon in
Ethiopia, and would be the only part of the supply chain where
chemicals might be used as part of agricultural production. The
coffee in question, they stated, is not likely to be plantation
coffee because it comes from several areas (Yirgacheffe, Sidamo,
Harar and Jimma according to Takenaka) and plantation coffee would
be easily traceable to the producer, unlike the coffee being held in
Japan.

4. The JCA sent five teams to Ethiopia to examine the supply chain
from beginning to end to take samples and determine where the
contaminants were introduced. Another team visited the Port of
Djibouti to see if contaminated shipping containers could be the
culprit. While testing is not complete, the prime suspect at this
point is bags made of jute fiber that are used in harvesting and
shipping. The jute fibers are imported from Bangladesh and/or made
into bags in Ethiopia. According to Takenaka, the samples are
currently undergoing testing in Tokyo with results expected in three
to four weeks. USAID Fintrac contractors informed Emboffs that jute
bags are used in all ten African coffee exporting countries, and
there are potentially widespread implications regionally if the bags
are to blame.

5. The Government of Ethiopia (GoE) is concerned, with good reason,
over this development. According to both Takenaka and the USAID
advisors, they are seeking the capacity to perform future testing
in-country before coffee is exported. Takenaka told Emboff that the
GoE has equipment that may be capable of doing the testing, but they
do not have the training to operate the machinery. The Ethiopians
asked the Japanese for capacity-building training, but as the
machines are Chinese this is not a need that Japan can fulfill.

6. COMMENT: Coffee is Ethiopia's number one export and a huge number
of peasant farmers rely on it for their livelihood. A significant
decrease in the amount of coffee purchased by Japan (Ethiopia's
number two coffee customer) and/or a ripple effect leading to cuts
by other purchasers would have a severe impact on the already-shaky
economy. Post is coordinating with the Embassy of Japan to learn
the results of the testing and will report on any additional
developments. Ethiopian coffee exported to the U.S. has not yet
tested positive for any of these banned insecticides, and it is not
clear if levels identified in coffee imported by Japan are within
permissible U.S. levels. Still, if such insecticides are found in
coffee exports to the U.S. or EU it could have an even greater
detrimental impact on Ethiopia's biggest export earner at a time
when the Ethiopian economy can least sustain the shock. END
COMMENT.

YAMAMOTO

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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