Nieuws - 9 november 2006

Flowers from ‘famine land’ Ethiopia

Around Addis Ababa, flowers are booming business. The local authorities are enthusiastic as is the new Dutch agriculture council in Ethiopia, and all parties are seeking support from Wageningen. Nevertheless, growing roses in a country where hunger reigns doesn’t sound entirely logical.

A large amount of the roses traded in the Netherlands have been coming from Kenya for a number of years now. A new development is that Ethiopia is also an up-and-coming flower exporting country. In the last three years, seventy large-scale flower growing businesses have started, employing some 25 thousand people. After coffee and meat, flowers are now Ethiopia’s third export product.

The Dutch ministry of agriculture has supported this development by setting up a new agriculture council in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government is supporting flower production by making land available for greenhouses, lowering taxes on foreign investments and offering subsidies for transporting flowers by air. Dutch and Ethiopian companies are very willing to invest in new flower cultivation companies in Ethiopia.

Last Monday an Ethiopian delegation visited Wageningen UR. Delegates from the ministries of trade and agriculture, a university dean and a representative of the Ethiopian flower growers' organisation heard about research that Wageningen UR plans to do and training that Wageningen International will be giving.

There will be courses on cultivation, but also on business management and European quality standards. Many buyers require that their suppliers comply with a social code of conduct, and businesses need to learn what that entails. In addition, research is planned on sustainable use of water, and ecological management of disease and pests in flower growing.

The delegation was very enthusiastic about the opportunities that flower growing offers Ethiopia. But doesn’t lucrative cultivation of flowers reduce the amount of food crops grown, which a poor country like Ethiopia badly needs? ‘Our problem is how to get rid of the image that we are a famine-ridden country,’ responded the representative from the Ethiopian ministry of agriculture. According to the delegates, Ethiopia grows enough food. The biggest problem is that people do not have enough purchasing power. As flower growing provides many people with jobs that pay better than agricultural work, they regard flower growing as a solution. / Joris Tielens