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By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia expects coffee exports for its 2014/15 crop to hit a record high because of drought and disease stifling crops in Latin America, the head of its exporters association said on Wednesday.

An unprecedented drought early this year reduced the 2014/15 crop in the world’s biggest coffee producer Brazil. The International Coffee Organization forecast in September that global coffee production will fall short of demand.

    In the four months from July this year, Ethiopia – Africa’s biggest producer of the bean – exported 54,000 tonnes of coffee worth $231.9 million, compared with the $172.5 million it earned from 51,000 tonnes over the same period last year.

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    Hussein Agraw, chairperson of the Ethiopian Coffee Exporters’ Association, said he expected the amount of coffee exported to rise to 235,000 tonnes by the end of 2014/2015, generating $862 million in revenue.

Ethiopia exported around 190,000 tonnes in 2013/14, earning $841 million, he said. Exports hit a previous record high of 193,000 tonnes the year before, he said.

“We are making these expectations because of the fall in production in Brazil,” he told Reuters.

“Because of this, we are expecting the international market to go up,” Hussein added, referring to demand.

Total coffee production in Ethiopia amounted to 450,000 tonnes over the 2013/14 period, according to official figures. Officials expect a similar output by the end of 2014/15.

    Ethiopia prides itself on being the birthplace of coffee. Some 15 million people are involved in its production, mostly in smallholder farms in the misty forested highlands in the country’s west and southwest.

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