Since 1991, policies of economic liberalization in Ethiopia have been effective in releasing the economy from rigid state control. At the same time, they have also exposed Ethiopian people to domestic and international free market competition. In African countries, the retreat of governments from rural development due to economic liberalization policies has led to the re-evaluation of the role of cooperatives. Since 1999, in Ethiopia, several coffee farmers cooperative unions have been established to support peasants who are handicapped by their lack of negotiating power in the global economy. Coffee cooperatives have become more market-oriented and are now relatively democratic compared to the former Marxist cooperatives of the previous regime. Thus far, these coffee cooperatives have provided higher profits to coffee farmers than have private traders. The actual volume of purchase, however, is limited due to financial constraints. Because of this, the majority of cooperatives continues to rely on conventional marketing channels rather than on unions. Considering their weak financial condition, it is too early to judge the sustainability of the cooperatives because international prices have been high recently, and it is not yet clear how they would survive a downward international price trend
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