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A Fresh Approach for Floriculture

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New technology for Ethiopian horticulture producers and exporters was introduced during the workshop at the Hilton Hotel on Thursday, September 3 by Australian company, Peakfresh Pty Ltd.

Present at the workshop were Tsegaye Abebe, chairman of the Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association (EHPEA), Solomon Sibhatu, managing director of Menagesha Flowers, and Getachew Muleta, marketing and logistics officer of Dire Flowers. There were also the representatives of the Australian company.

The workshop, organized by EHPEA, was to facilitate the use of long sea freight transport for Ethiopian producers by using the new product which could keep flowers and vegetables fresh for up to 21 days.

The new product is a special plastic bag that works by removing ethylene gas, which is released by most fruits and vegetables after harvest; the exposure to this very gas accelerates aging and ultimate deterioration.

The new bags use an organic mineral to remove ethylene gas and prolong the life and freshness of the produce. The bags also have pores through which the damaging gases produced by the fresh produce escape. And it has been successfully tried in Colombia and Ecuador.

The technology will allow exporters to keep the flowers and vegetables fresh for a long time, enabling them to use cheaper transport by sea, cutting transportation cost by 40 to 50pc, after adding the 0.70 dollar cents cost of the plastic bag. The exporters pay 1.85 dollars per kilogram of flowers using air transport.

“Within three months we will make trial voyages and if effective, we will ask the company to have a branch or an agent in Ethiopia,” said Tsegaye.

At the workshop, samples of preserved flowers were displayed, and the attendants of the workshop had the chance to inspect the bags.

“It is a very important product, especially for vegetables which have more weight than flowers,” said Solomon, Menagesha’s managing director.

Three shipping companies: Messina Line of Italy, Mersk Line of Denmark, and Ethiopian Shipping Lines (ESL) all welcomed the product. The two foreign companies had been trying to work out deals with exporters to give them refrigerated container service for shipping their products. Mersk had already, made a trial voyage from Djibouti and Rotterdam carrying frozen strawberries. ESL which does not have refrigerated containers, offered only to provide technical advice and support by using its network with its partners around the world.

“We can even use the plastic bags for very sensitive flowers types in an air trip,” said Getachew, Dire’s marketing manager. He was packaging a sample using the plastic bag at the flower field during his exchange with Fortune.

“The long trip will not affect our market”, he said and added that environment friendly customers would appreciate the new product and the transportation by sea explained Tsegaye.

Source: Addis Fortune (6 Sep 2009)