Less-developed countries seek to capitalize on consumer trends
Ethiopia, the second-most populous nation on the African continent, is well-positioned to capitalize on food and beverage trends in China through the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, according to Getahun Bikora Agegnhu, adviser to the director-general of the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority.
“Coffee consumption in China is growing rapidly. There is just so much potential here to tap into,” Agegnhu said at the Ethiopia pavilion.
“Everywhere around the world, coffee shops are using our beans as part of their blends. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee — we have the best beans in the world.”
Ethiopia is among the dozens of the world’s least-developed countries that are attending the expo, which offered them two free booths each to support their entry into the Chinese market. The nations also got a discount on fees to attend and on shipping their displays to the National Exhibition and Convention Center, where the expo is being held.
Traditionally a tea-drinking nation, China’s appetite for coffee has been growing in recent years. In Shanghai, coffee chain Starbucks can be found every few hundred meters in downtown areas. Specialty coffee shops have also been sprouting around the city.
Although the average Chinese coffee drinker consumes just three cups per year compared to 363 cups in the US, total consumption has grown by an average 16 percent annually over the past decade, eight times the average growth of global coffee consumption, according to the International Coffee Organization.
Nearly 86 percent of Ethiopia’s coffee exports are bound for countries such as Germany, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, South Korea and the US, according to the country’s coffee marketing department.
Agegnhu said he hopes the expo will mark China’s joining the list.
“We currently don’t export much to the Chinese market. But, hopefully, China can become one of the biggest importers within the next five years. Chinese companies have in recent years begun approaching us to set up Ethiopian coffee shops in China. That’s a good sign,” he said.
Nepal, another of the leastdeveloped countries attending the expo, is similarly optimistic that the event will help boost its exports and reduce its growing trade deficit. On display at the Nepal booth were carpets, traditional handicrafts, wool and tea.
“Nepalese tea is grown in a different climate, so the taste is different. It’s an alternative for tea lovers who want to try something new. Our religious handicrafts such as statues of Buddha and wool have always been popular with Chinese consumers, too, but we hope this expo can bolster exports further,” said Govinda Acharya, a senior officer at Nepal’s Ministry of Commerce.
“This expo is certainly taking place at the right time, as Nepal has been trying to reduce its trade deficit with China. It has given us the perfect platform to increase exports to China,” he said, “and we’re very happy to have this big opportunity to come here.”
A staff member at Ethiopia’s booth serves coffee to visitors at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Wednesday.