Here's a little background:
A commodity exchange was established in Ethiopia in 2008, mainly for grains. The idea was to promote price transparency and food stability for Ethiopian food crops. Here's a little op-ed piece:http://www.philanthropyaction.com/nc/ethiopian_exchange_looks_promising
and a news item:http://www.ifpri.org/pressrel/2008/20080414.asp
Along the way, someone had the idea that coffee should be traded in this same commodities system. Proponents of this system say that it will standardize coffee quality,, and introduce 81 generic grades of Ethiopian coffee.
Here is how I am understanding it so far: regional milllers would tender their coffee to one of twenty or so regional warehouses. Coffee is recognized as one of 9 geographically based "types", and its quality is graded from 1 to 9. Therefore you might have a Sidama A grade 2 or a Harrar B grade 5. Coffee would carry no other designation other than that. The warehouses package the coffee into standardized bags, where it is brought to Addis and traded there as a commodity. Therefore, you can buy however many bags of Sidama A grade 2 on a given day for a given price.
Here is the rub: independent millers like Abdullah Bagersh (owner of Idido mill) or the Ogsadeys (owners of Horse mills) who buy coffee from farmers, mill it, escort it through the auction system and export it under their own mark will no longer be able to do this. They will be required to sell the produce of their mills to the commodity system, where its provenance will be lost.
There appears to be an exception: that farmers may sell their own produce directly. This will allow large plantations and co-ops (who are indistinguishable under Ethiopian law from individual farmers) to export their own coffee. So this system would effectively commoditize the private-mill coffees, and the only farmers in Ethiopia who would have access to the specialty market would be co-ops and large farms. It would also limit access to the organic market to these same players. Remember, Idido and Horse are not co-ops, they are privately owned mills, as are Haicof, Ambessa, etc.
I have also heard that the commodity exchange may not apply to dry processed Eastern Ethiopian coffees.
I am still collecting information, but that's what I have for you guys. The SCAA is taking a research/advocacy role with this one, and there should be some action and more information at the Symposium.