Global crisis drives down Ethiopia flower earnings

February 12, 2009

By Tsegaye Tadesse

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Income from Ethiopian flower exports has reached only 60 percent of a targeted $298 million over the last 18 months as the global recession hits the sector, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

The Horn of Africa nation earned $177.6 million during the period from the sale of some 1.5 billion stems, Girma Gelelcha, an expert in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, told Reuters.

“Unless the global financial situation shows some improvement, it may also be difficult for Ethiopia to earn the targeted $207 million … in (calendar year) 2009,” he said.

Ethiopian horticulture officials expressed fears at the end of last year that the worldwide economic crisis could hit their industry as European consumers cut back on luxury purchases.

On Tuesday, a source at the state-owned Development Bank of Ethiopia said two Israeli-owned flower farms had been put up for auction in recent weeks after failing to service bank loans.

The source said three more farms were in a similar position and might be put up for sale soon.

The government has offered tax breaks to attract investment in flowers. More than 100 local and foreign firms have been drawn to the sector, and the country hopes exports will overtake coffee within five years to be worth $1 billion annually.