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Volume 405: debated on Friday 16 May 2003

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To ask the Minister of State for International Development what assessment his Department has made of the (a) social and (b) economic consequences of Ethiopian farmers moving from coffee to khat production. [112739]

Some coffee farmers are making an economic choice to shift to khat production. We have not undertaken any specific assessment of the consequences of this change, but are keeping the situation under observation.There have been some efforts by the University of Alemayu in Ethiopia to encourage a shift from khat to coffee. These have been unsuccessful, largely because of low coffee prices, but also because of slow start-up time for coffee production and the need for intensive labour.The key issue is market prices for coffee and the need to reduce vulnerability to market uncertainty. Commodity dependence is a complex problem and unfortunately there are no simple solutions. Together with other Whitehall Departments, we are engaged with a number of different stakeholders examining how best to mitigate the wider challenges presented by dependence on agricultural commodities. In Ethiopia we are providing a broad range of poverty-focused bilateral support aimed at reducing the vulnerability of people to shocks, including that of low commodity prices.