The History of Coffee Production in Brazil and Ethiopia. A Comparative Overview

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2019

14 Pages, Grade: A


Table of contents



Coffee Production in Brazil

Coffee Production Systems in Brazil

Coffee Production in Ethiopia

Coffee Production System in Ethiopia

Comparison of Coffee Production in Brazil and Ethiopia




Coffee produced and consumed internationally, and this popular crop produced mainly in tropical regions. Developed countries are the main consumers of this crop. It is also the leading exporting item for some countries like Ethiopia. However, in Brazil due to the diversification of products, coffee did not take the forefront of leading export items. The coffee production industry of Brazil is well productive unlike Ethiopia’s. This article will discuss the production of coffee in both countries. In the first section, it will discuss coffee production history of Brazil and in the second section it will discuss coffee production in Ethiopia, and finally, it will compare coffee production in both countries and put some suggestions for the good being of production of coffee in Ethiopia.


Coffea arabica, Forest Coffee Production, Semi – Forest Coffee Production, Garden Coffee Production, Plantation Coffee Production


Biruk Wondimu Chemere, Raya University, Department of History and Heritage Management;


Coffee is one of the high – priced crop and the second widely traded commodity in the world next to oil (Clarke, Macrae, 1989a and Watt, 1937). It is produced and consumed globally, and millions of Peoples depend on it either directly or indirectly. In addition, the trees of coffee belong to botanical genus Coffea in the family Rubiaceae (Clarke, Macrae, 1988b). Like other crops, the productivity of coffee per tree varied based on the condition of climate and Soil, the cultivation system as well as the age of the tree. It was during the last decades of the nineteenth century, that coffee became widely consumed all over the world (Revels, 2000).

Coffee growth in favorably temperature ranging from 15 – 24 °C, and with the annual rainfall between 1500 – 2000 mm, but if the temperature gets higher than 24 °C the occurrence of photosynthesis will be low and the leaf and production will be damage (Clarke, Macrae, 1988 b). In some areas, the rainfall reduced until 1000 mm, but they used irrigation as sustenance. Volcanic soil with high Base Exchange is favorable soil type for Coffee production, but it is also possible to plant Coffee with soil types like sandstone, limestone, basalt, and lava (Clarke, Macrae, 1988 b).

Coffee Production in Brazil

Federative Republic of Brazil located in the eastern part of South America, in the Western Hemisphere. Nine countries and one French Overseas territory shared a border with Brazil;Chile and Ecuador are the only two South American countries that did not share any boundary with Brazil. The climate condition of Brazil varies from hot and humid in the Amazon Rainforest, to temperate in the south. The northeast suffers periodic droughts while heavy rains cause severe damage in the south, especially in poorer areas of the cities (Motta and Hargrave, et al, 2011). Brazil’s population is around 195 million and its official language is Portuguese.

Coffea arabica introduced to Latin America from Ethiopia in the first decades of the eighteenth century (Clarke, Macrae, 1988b and Walson, 2008). However, it does not mean that other coffee species like Robusta originated from Latina America. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, small plantations started in the State of Rio de Janeiro, later on, the plantations spread to the states of São Paulo, Minas Geraes, and Spirito Santo, and by the first quarter of the nineteenth century, those small plantations became the leading force in the agriculture sector of Brazil (Journal of Royal Society of Arts, 1913: p. 449). From the last quarter of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century, three fourth of world coffee production and two-third of Brazil’s coffee production came from the State of São Paulo (Martin, 1954 and Font, 1987). Therefore, at that time, one state of a country i.e. the state of São Paulo produced approximately half of the world’s coffee production. Even if it looks exaggerations, some authors tried to describe the high productivity of coffee in São Paulo from those, ‘’São Paulo is the coffee state and Santos the coffee port of the World’’ (Sawyer, 1907) and ‘’No other country shows such a vast areas planted in coffee as does São Paulo, and in no other country is the production per acre equal to that yielded by the plantation of this state’’ (Journal of Royal Society of Arts, 1913: p. 450) were fascinating expressed.

Within approximately a century, the production and export of coffee in Brazil shown great development. The next table will show clear statistics about the growth of coffee export c. nineteenth century.

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Table 1. Source: the Production of Coffee in Brazil in the Journal of Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 61, No. 3146 March 7, 1913, P. 451.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, from the industrial workers of Brazil, nearly 93.3% were engaged in the production or transaction of coffee (Journal of Royal Society of Arts, 1913: p. 450). In addition, 85% of capitals invested in all industries were engaged in the production or transaction of coffee (Journal of Royal Society of Arts, 1913: p. 450). In 1901 failing of coffee price had occurred in Brazil, and overproduction was the reason behind the failure of the price, to control it the legislative of the State if São Paulo discouraged the establishment of new plantation program in the state (Sawyer, 1907). The overproduction of coffee in Brazil could take as one of the yardsticks of the high productivity of coffee in the area and also the attention of the concerning body for the production of the crop. In the first two decades of the second half of the twentieth century, when the then government of Brazil implemented export-oriented economy, coffee farmers have been supported by government subsidies, and state – finance researches patronized ever before (Walson, Achinelli, 2008). In 1985, coffee covers 11 % of total Brazil export revenues with 2.5 billion USD (Clarke, Macrae, 1988b).

Coffee Production Systems in Brazil

Unlike other coffee-producing countries, especially Ethiopia, the coffee production system in Brazil take place by large government and private farms (Walson, Achinelli, 2008). However, it does not mean that there are no small – scale coffee farmers; the share of small – scale farmers was near to the ground on annual production. In short, when we talk about coffee production system in Brazil, it is all about large scale farms or plantation coffee production systems. The history of large scale coffee production systems in Brazil had a long history as back as the introduction of coffee to the continent in the eighteenth century (Walson, Achinelli, 2008). The large coffee plantations were owned by private and group investors, and they played a great role in the improvement of Brazilians coffee production. The Common, plantation was as large as having from 300,000-400,000 coffee trees, and there were plantations with coffee trees of 800,000 in the beginning of the twentieth century (Journal of Royal Society of Arts, 1913: p. 450). The next table will show the largeness of Brazil’s coffee plantations and their growth in partial.

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Table 2 Source: the Production of Coffee in Brazil in the Journal of Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 61, No. 3146 March 7, 1913, P. 450.

Coffee Production in Ethiopia

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia located in Northeast Africa, shares a border with Sudan in the west, with South Sudan in the southwest, Kenya in the south, Somalia in southeast and east, Djibouti in the east and Eritrea in the north. The population of the country is around 90 million. Like Brazil, the environment of Ethiopia varies from region to region, when the northern and eastern parts of the country got an average and small amount of rainfall per year respectively, and other parts of the country got a relatively good amount of rainfall per year. The southwestern parts of the country got the highest amount of rainfall than any other parts of the country.

In the world, there are different types of coffee species exist, but in Ethiopia, Coffea arabica is the main species produce on vast scale. It is possible to say that there is no exact and popularly accepted answer for the questions where, how, and when the production and consumption of coffee started in Ethiopia (Asfaw, 2014)? Nevertheless, the sentences, “coffee was originated in the southwest of Ethiopia, is relatively inclusive to the dispute over the first place of the discovery of coffee.’’ Coffea arabica grew first in the forest highlands of Southwest Ethiopia, with the long rainy season and favorable soil type for the growth of coffee (Clarke, Macrae, 1988b and Kieran, 1969). Then, it spread to the world through the Arabian Peninsula.

Exporting coffee had a long history in Ethiopia, and history goes as back as the seventeenth century. After the second half of the nineteenth century, coffee emerged as one of the important export items, which was largely produced in the Southwestern parts of Ethiopia (Zewde, 2005). As taxation and revenues from trade were the base for the power of the then regional lords of the kingdoms, coffee supported most of the rulers. In the second decade of the twentieth century, coffee became one most important exporting item for the then monarchical leaders, some of the young imperial governors, who had alerted about the revenue from coffee plantation, started their own coffee plantation in the southwest; notably Dajazmach Desta Damtew and Dajazmach Mekonen Demissew were some of the personality who had started their plantation. Nevertheless, it does not mean that they were the first prominent leader to establish a modern coffee plantation in Ethiopia. Due to the growth of the attention of the government and coffee production, the then modern road from Addis Ababa to Jimma, (which created a link between one of the centers of coffee production and processing town to the capital of the country) completed in the 1930s.

After the above mentioned two phenomena i.e. the establishment of plantation by the imperial governors and the construction of the then-modern road, the contribution of coffee on the national export items got advanced. The next table shows the share of coffee in the export items of the country during the mid-twentieth century.

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Table 3. ZbigniewSiemienski, ‘’Impact of the Coffee Boom on Ethiopia.’’ Middle East Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1955.P. 67.

The production and consumption of Coffee are vital for the cultural and economic value of Ethiopians. The value of coffee was not only economical but also it had great value for the cultural aspects of society. Half of the coffee produced was consumed locally, even in the southwest of the country, there are unique ceremonies of drinking coffee (Asfaw, 2014 and Bastin, Matteucci, 2007). Even if the rank of Ethiopia in the list of top coffee producers country varies from time to time, most of the time it was in the fifth coffee producers in the world and the first producer in Africa. Ethiopians are the heavy coffee drinkers, ranked as one of the largest coffee consumers in sub-Saharan Africa (Asfaw, 2014 and Bastin, Matteucci, 2007 and Report of United States Agency for International Development, June 2010: P. 1).

Oromia and “Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’” Regional States are the top coffee producers with 63.3 and 35.9 percent of the nation’s production of coffee respectively and the major coffee growing districts Wadarda’s contain an estimated 800,000 coffee farmers (Report of United States Agency for International Development, June 2010: P. 2). By the fragmentation of coffee farmlands in major coffee producing regions and absence of a well – organized census, it becomes difficult to put the exact number of coffee producing farmers, but it estimates that they are between 15 - 20 million (Bastin, Matteucci, 2007 and Asfaw, 2014).


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The History of Coffee Production in Brazil and Ethiopia. A Comparative Overview
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history, coffee, production, brazil, ethiopia, comparative, overview
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Biruk Chemere (Author), 2019, The History of Coffee Production in Brazil and Ethiopia. A Comparative Overview, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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