Dagmawit Tsegaye and her friend Mesay Tifru are both
26 and work for a tour operator. They attended the
Horti-flora Ethiopia 2011 Horticultural Expo at
Millennium Hall on Thursday, March 24, 2011, to buy
flowers for their office and respective homes.
The fourth international trade exhibition for the
floriculture and horticulture sectors, which is
conducted every two years, was organised by the
Ethiopian Horticulture Producers and Exporters
Association (EHPEA) and opened on Wednesday, March
23, in a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Meles
Zenawi, MPs, and other high-ranking officials.
The 87 participating exhibitors filled the hall,
occupying a total of 2,000sqm, with Ethiopian
Airlines and the EHPEA occupying the largest booths
of 54sqm each.
The hall was decorated with a plethora of brightly
coloured flowers displayed in a variety of different
styles, as well as fruits and vegetables.
The participants also hired a total of 50 temporary
employees for the event, according to Tilaye Bekele,
executive director of the EHPEA. All actors in the
sector, including breeders, growers, transporters,
investors, machinery manufacturers, and banks from
different countries attended, according to Tilaye.
Flower growers and exporters from Holland, Japan,
Italy, France, the Middle East, and local investors
participated, but the Dutch had the largest
A total of 1,600ht of land is currently dedicated to
flower and vegetable farming in Ethiopia, and the
industry has created 50,000 jobs to date. The total
number of horticulture producing and exporting
enterprises in the country stands at around 120, of
which 90 are members of the EHPEA, which was
established in 2002 and comprises 91 farms.
Most of the farms are located in the vicinity of
Addis Abeba and the Rift Valley area; including
Holeta, Sendafa, Sululta, Sebeta, Bishoftu (Debre
Zeit) and Ziway towns, which gives them greater
access Bole International Airport. Sher Ethiopia is
the largest commercial flower farm with a total of
Tefera Derbew, minister of
Agriculture, leans over to listen to the PM soft
Of the farms, 35 are located in Bishoftu, Ziway,
Awash and Hawassa, while Sululta, Sendafa and Chefa
each have only three farms.
Most of the farms produce flowers, of which roses
are the most popular taking up 65pc of total
production. Only 16 companies are engaged in growing
vegetables, cuttings, fruits and herbs; of which
90pc are supported by loans from Development Bank of
Recently, six flower farms faced being foreclosed,
the largest being Menagesha Flower Farm, located in
Menagesha Town, 44km south of the capital. It is the
last one to be sold and has been put up for auction
by DBE three times already.
Ethiopia is a well-known producer of large and long
stemmed roses in a wide range of colours and
Accordingly, the Millennium Hall was filled with
roses in vibrant colours that made Dagmawit and her
friend debate whether a light purple rose found in
the tent of Sola Grow Plc was real or artificial.
They were surprised to hear that it was real and
grown on an Ethiopian farm.
The sector is one of the top five foreign exchange
earners of the nation next to Khat, which totalled
0.6pc of the real GDP in the 2009/10 fiscal year.
Flowers are mainly exported to Germany, Russia,
Japan, the UK, and the Middle East; but Holland
takes the lead by importing 141 million dollars
worth of flowers in 2009/10, according to research
published by Access Capital.
However, the overall export performance of the
sector is far below expectations in generating
Over the past six months, the collection of 156
million dollars from the export of flowers, fruits,
and vegetables has been planned, but the sector
collected only 91.3 million dollars, according to
the latest six-month performance review of the
Ministry of Agriculture (MoA).
This underperformance is attributed to a lack of
good management, quality control problems, and a
lack of modern technology, the MoA report read.
The EHPEA agrees with the report to the extent that
some comments about it were included in the
welcoming speech made by Tsegaye Abeba, chairman of
the association, at the official opening ceremony of
Environmental changes throughout the world hinder
Ethiopian products from reaching the market,
according to the chairman. The rising cost of
capital goods, such as greenhouses and irrigation
equipment; the unavailability of agricultural land
for investors; and a lack of sea freight transport
are on the list of problems cited by Tsegaye as the
major contributing factors for not meeting the goal.
“The cost of using Ethiopian Airlines is expensive
but it is the only transport available since
Ethiopian Shipping Lines (ESL) does not have
refrigerated sea transport for perishable goods,’’
Tilaye told Fortune. “The airline charges between
130,000 dollars and 170,000 dollars for containers
between 130 tonnes and 100 tonnes in one charter
whether it weighs the exact tonnage or not.”
Dagmawit and Mesay had other problems, as they could
not find a single flower for sale.
“We heard on television that there would be local
transactions, but maybe it was just promotional,”
Dagmawit mused while taking a rest with a cup of
coffee as part of a traditional Ethiopian coffee
“This is an exhibition and not a trade fair,” Tilaye
explained. “Its purpose is to create contacts
between buyers and suppliers. What makes this
exhibition different from the previous ones is that
we invited buyers, especially from China and Russia,
who are not traditionally part of our market.”
The international decrease in demand is forcing
flower growers to seek new markets, he said.
For this reason, an exhibitor from Sola Grow was
very happy with the expo, for she gained new
customers, she claimed.
“There were three investors from the UK and Ivory
Coast who want to buy the seeds of certain types of
flowers but wanted to see our company’s cuttings
farm, and we have scheduled a visit next week,” the
exhibitor told Fortune. “It opened a lot of doors
for the business since it is the place where we meet