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Ethiopia, from Newcomer to Recognised Supplier

Already a top 5 EU flower supplier, Ethiopia steps up its market drive

Cover HortiMagazineTen years ago, Ethiopian flower exports were virtually non-existent. Today, the country ranks among the European Union’s top 5 fresh-cut flower suppliers and floriculture has become one of the nation’s main foreign exchange earners. Economic woes in 2009 and the effects of the ash cloud in 2010 caused a minor shakeout, but about a hundred growers have emerged from these storms stronger and more eager than ever to consolidate and expand on their export position by stepping up their market drive, improving efficiency and diversifying product ranges.

As far as the flower industry is concerned, the worst of the economic recession seems to be over. Though prices may not climb back to pre-crisis levels, the 2009 slump seems to be a thing of the past, with EU imports steadily rising. Trade figures on the whole suggest the global flower market is rebounding and the mood in the market is one of cautious optimism.

Catching up on Kenya
In Ethiopia, the hard times floored some companies, but also produced a seasoned export sector whose impressive growth since 2000 can no longer be passed off as a fluke. Ethiopia now holds a firm position among the Top 5 EU suppliers – along with Kenya, Ecuador, Colombia and Israel – and an impressive second place among Dutch auction suppliers.

The share of Ethiopian flowers in EU imports doubled from 6% in 2005 to 12% in 2010. Statistics suggest Ethiopia is steadily catching up on Kenya. Kenyan flower exports, like those of Ethiopia, grew robustly over the last decade, however, Kenyan growers appear to have suffered more from the crisis. In 2009, Kenyan exports were down 7% compared to the preceding year, while Ethiopia exported 34% more to the EU. What’s more, preliminary figures suggest similar developments in 2010.

Lean, mean and market-driven
The Ethiopian growers who survived 2009 and 2010 are well aware that long-term success will not come easy. With support from various national and international institutes, these growers are bracing themselves for rigorous self-improvement programmes. Their key growth opportunities, they recognise, lie in becoming leaner and meaner and relentlessly market-driven. This means adopting continuous improvement programmes on the farms to streamline business processes, cut costs and raise the quality of every last detail. It also means developing product ranges according to market preferences, as well as getting online and connecting with the ongoing virtualisation of the flower trade.

Source: Excerpt from article in HortiMagazine (March 2011) “From Newcomer to Recognised Supplier” by Milco Rikken, ProVerde