Ethiopia says recession hits Dutch flower sales

March 2, 2009

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia says it is seeking new buyers for its fresh flowers because the global economic downturn is cutting sales in its main market, the Netherlands.

Tsegaye Abebe, head of the state-run Horticulture Development Association, told a news conference late on Saturday the Netherlands bought 65 percent of Ethiopia’s flower exports.

“But the recession affecting the European country is also affecting our revenue,” he said.

Abebe said Ethiopia was now only expecting to earn 60 percent of a projected $280 million from flower exports this year.

The Horn of Africa nation earned $177.6 million last year from the sale of some 1.5 billion stems, the government says.

Ethiopia is now trying to attract buyers in Dubai, Asia, Scandinavia, Russia and the United States to boost income, Tsegaye said.

Offering tax breaks to attract investment, Ethiopia hopes flower exports will overtake coffee and be worth $1 billion annually within five years. Flower farming employs about 60,000 people in the huge country, mostly women.

Neighbouring Kenya earned about $1 billion from horticulture in 2007. Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda are also developing their fresh flower export industries.