Updated 11/23/2022 Recently there was a renewal of the old hostilities between the TPLF (Tigray Peoples Liberation Front) and the Ethiopian government which has negatively affected Welo opal production. And lately the Ethiopian government has relaxed the opal export requirements that has encouraged foreign opal buyers from India and China to buy up much of the Welo opal production…which has drastically increased the price of opal. Another factor on the price of opals is the 40% plus Ethiopian inflation rate brought about by the aforementioned Tigray war and world wide inflation.
But it’s not all bad news…there have been some promising reports coming out of the region of late. On November 2 2022 the Ethiopian government and rebel leaders of the TPLF agreed on a “cessation of hostilities”. Hopefully this will bring opal miners back to the opal mines, where fighting had occurred, and opal production will increase again, helping to to bring opal prices back to previous levels…but as of today, rough opal prices are a great deal higher than they were 3 months ago. And to add a bit more good news…the rainy season is now over for this year…perhaps until next June. Ethiopian’s rainy season typically runs from mid June until mid September. During the rainy season it’s difficult for miners to access the opal mines due to very poor road conditions. And trails along the river gorges where opals are mined, are dangerous and sometimes washed out. Many of the opal miners are part time farmers, so as soon as the rainy weather subsides, they suspend mining to tend to their crops of teff. Teff is a very nutritious annual grass grain crop used to make Injera a large fermented sour dough pancake which is served with Wot…a staple food of the Ethiopian diet. Teff is grown on the high 6,000- 9,000 foot plateaus above the gorges where the opals are found in Welo province.