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Ethiopia’s CPWE boosts coffee processing efficiency with Sortex solutions

Coffee plays a crucial role in generating foreign currency for the national economy of Ethiopia

With an annual market share of 26% of all processed coffee for national export, Coffee Processing and Warehouse Enterprise (CPWE) is said to be Ethiopia’s largest coffee processing plant, facilitating over 100 exporters each year.

The company maintains a thriving relationship with the food processing specialist Bühler, where it has used Sortex sorters exclusively in all of its coffee processing operations. The company was subsequently able to overcome its four most significant hurdles in coffee processing: product quality, export standards, operational efficiency and stability.

The CPWE was established in 1994, and processes and stores export-standard, washed, and natural Arabica coffee beans are grown all around Ethiopia. The enterprise operates from a 50,683 sq m coffee processing plant located in Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital, with around 400 permanent and contract staff.

Three export coffee processing lines can collectively process 15 metric tonnes of coffee per hour. The company also boasts up to 30,000 tonnes of storage capacity and processes about 50,000 tonnes of Arabica coffee annually.

Improving product quality and operational efficiency

Most processing plants across Ethiopia use handpicking as a primary means of sorting coffee beans. Getaw Yalew, general manager at CPWE, said, “Before investing in the Sortex machines, we relied heavily on handpicking, and the quality control of our coffee was not great. The efficiency was poor, output per hour was low, and costs were high.”

The company turned to Bühler to ensure a superior and more consistent quality of the coffee. Bühler was able to meet CPWE’s sorting requirements with a portfolio of solutions responsible for processing around 75% of all Arabica beans exported from Ethiopia each year.

“Since investing in the Sortex machines, we have reduced our dependency on handpicking,” Yalew stated. As a result, the company has noticed a vast improvement in the quality of their coffee beans, with easier removal of sour, vinegar, immature and discoloured beans, in addition to insect-damaged and broca beans. 

Satisfying export standards

Export requirements for coffee beans in Ethiopia are among the highest criteria, with a 99.9% accept quality as standard. If the input quality is poor, a second pass in the sorting process is often required. “Thanks to the simultaneous re-sorting functionality, we can count on our Sortex sorters to ensure that we continue to meet the toughest export requirements,” Yalew noted.

Providing stability

By exclusively using Sortex machines in all of its coffee processing operations, Yalew said, “CPWE has seen the market constantly growing in terms of volume. We have been able to supply our products at a consistent quality standard, with markets now perceiving us as a reliable supplier of high-quality coffee.”