Ethiopia’s floral industry withers away in Amhara conflict

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Aside its famous quality coffee industry, Ethiopia has carved a niche in the horticultural industry, particularly the floral sector, generating over $650 million in revenue in 2022 and holding fast to the position of the fifth largest exporter of ornamental plants.

However, the successes of the industry seem to have taken a nose dive following the conflict in the Amhara region between the federal government and the non-state armed group Fano.

The conflict is reported to have resulted in significant economic losses, with damages estimated at 2.5 billion birr (approximately $72 million). The Amhara Industry and Investment Bureau reported that clashes between government forces and armed groups resulted in over 3,000 job losses, mainly in sectors involved in the cultivation and marketing of flowers, vegetables, and fruits.

In 2022, Ethiopia achieved a significant milestone by exporting 2.7 million kilograms of flowers to the European market on Valentine’s Day alone, with the majority consisting of fresh-cut roses. This surge in exports is part of a busy season that spans from December to June, coinciding with celebratory occasions such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day in Western countries. The flower industry played a pivotal role in Ethiopia’s economy during this period, contributing to its prominence as a key global supplier of fresh blooms for special occasions.

A tweet on how Ethiopia floral industry is ranked

President of the Ethiopian Horticulture Producers and Exporters Association (EHPEA), Tewodros Zewdie, said “The Ethiopian floriculture industry though young, has kept on scoring glittering achievements. Ethiopia is now the second-largest African flower exporter and among the top four exporting countries globally. It has also become a strategic industry at the national level as it is the second leading FOREX generator in the country, next to coffee from the agri-sector and the third leading export item nationally, next to coffee and gold,” he is quoted by aiph.com.

“It has created relatively decent employment opportunities for Ethiopians as well. Most of the employment opportunity beneficiaries, nearly 80 per cent, are females. Thus, it is also contributing to the empowerment of women. We can talk a lot about the trickle-down effects of the industry,” he added while reflecting on the industry’s successes in 2022.

However, the Amhara regional government reported substantial losses since the onset of the conflict in the region in August, estimated at about $45 million. The conflict has significantly impacted both the economic landscape and employment opportunities in an industry vital to Ethiopia’s international trade.

More specifically, a flower farm co-owned by the Dutch Flower Group, suffered substantial damage to their plantation amid the conflict. In response, the Dutch company has taken the precautionary measure of suspending operations on the farm. Africa Intelligence reports that the suspension will continue until the state provides assurances regarding the proper protection of the business.

Meanwhile, EHPEA has formally requested compensation from the federal government, while flower growers within the association have voiced concerns about escalating insecurity and an unfavourable business environment, posing threats to their operations in the volatile northern regions of Ethiopia, Semafor has reported.

The Amhara region is now grappling with the aftermath of the clashes, as stakeholders assess the extent of the damages and explore potential avenues for recovery in the affected industries.

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